Can I see the sun from the moon

Why can we see the moon during the day too?

The tasks are clearly distributed: the sun shines during the day and the moon shines at night. But that's not true at all: The moon can sometimes be seen during the day - what is it doing there?

Day and night have a simple cause: the earth rotates. If our location on earth is pointing towards the sun, it is light, i.e. day. Later, when the earth continues to rotate, our location moves to the side facing away from the sun. We watch the sun go down and it gets dark.

The moon rises and sets too - for exactly the same reason: because the earth rotates. But the moon also moves: in the course of four weeks it circles the earth once. Half of this time, its orbit is on the side of the earth facing away from the sun. From there you can always see it when your position has just turned away from the sun - or in short: when it is night. But two weeks later the moon is on the side facing the sun. Then it is exactly the other way round: You can see it together with the sun during the day when your own location is facing the sun.

So the moon can sometimes be seen during the day and sometimes at night, even if for us it actually belongs to the night. But that's simply because the moon is the brightest light in the sky at night and is therefore much more noticeable.

How do the phases of the moon arise?

The moon is funny: it changes shape all the time. Sometimes it's round like a disk, sometimes just a thin sickle - and sometimes we don't see it at all. Why is that?

The moon (like the earth) does not shine by itself. We only see it because it is illuminated by the sun. More precisely, we can only see half of the lunar sphere that faces the sun. The other half doesn't get any light and stays dark.

What we see of this half changes over the course of a month as the moon orbits the earth once. When we see it from the earth with the sun behind us, we look closely at the illuminated side and see the moon fully illuminated, as a full circle. (Therefore: "Full moon“)

If the moon moves further on its orbit, that changes: The rays of the sun now hit it from the left side as seen from us. The right edge is not illuminated, so it is not visible. The visible part of the moon continues to decrease on this part of the orbit. ("waning moon“)

Two weeks after the full moon, the moon is facing exactly in the direction of the sun, the side facing us is completely unlit - the moon seems to have disappeared. This point in time is called "new moon“, Because the moon does not disappear permanently, of course, but continues to run and appears again in the sky.

Because little by little, some rays of sun again hit the side facing us. Because the waxing moon is now on the other side of the earth than when you were losing weight, the rays of the sun now come from the right as seen from us. At first we only see a narrow strip on the edge, but it quickly widens. After a week, half of it is illuminated - we are looking exactly from the side at the light-shadow boundary.

And a week later we see the moon again with the sun behind us as a fully illuminated circle in the sky - and the process starts all over again.

How do solar and lunar eclipses arise?

When the sun or moon darkened, people used to fear the worst: misfortunes, catastrophes or even the end of the world. Today we laugh at this superstition. Nevertheless, a solar or lunar eclipse is an impressive experience. But how does it come about?

We know: the moon orbits the earth. If it moves exactly between the earth and the sun, it throws a shadow on the earth. From our point of view, it then covers the sun during this short time and it becomes almost as dark as at night - although it is actually day. A solar eclipse has occurred.

In the case of a lunar eclipse, it is the other way around: The moon is then exactly behind the earth as seen from the sun - which throws a shadow on the moon. For us, the moon is then only faintly visible, mostly in a reddish or brown color.

But why are solar and lunar eclipses so rare? Shouldn't a lunar eclipse occur every time a full moon and, conversely, a solar eclipse occur at a new moon?

No, because when the moon is full or new, the three celestial bodies are almost never lined up exactly on one line one behind the other. The reason for this: The orbit of the moon is slightly tilted compared to the earth's orbit. The moon is therefore usually a bit higher or lower than the sun and earth. Then the sun's rays have a free path, the shadow of the moon passes the earth or the moon flies past the earth's shadow.

Only very rarely is the moon exactly in the right place at exactly the right height, so that the sun, earth and moon are lined up in a line and the moon's shadow falls on the earth - or the earth's shadow falls on the moon.

And even if a solar eclipse occurs, it can only be seen for a few minutes, and not even anywhere on earth. This is because the moon is much smaller than the earth and only casts a small shadow on the globe. And since the moon is constantly in motion, its shadow moves quickly and the spectacle is quickly over. A lunar eclipse takes a little longer. Since the moon is smaller than the earth, it is completely covered by the earth's shadow and it also takes longer to come out again.

Why is there day and night?

We spend our life to the rhythm of day and night: in the morning it gets light, we get up. During the day we go to school or work, meet up with friends, do sports. In the evening it gets dark, we go to bed, and at night we sleep. The next morning the same process starts all over again, day after day, throughout our lives. The change between day and night is so natural for us that the question sounds almost surprising: Why is there actually day and night?

At first glance, the answer is very easy: day is coming because the sun is rising. Then it curves across the sky, finally disappears behind the horizon and night falls. So you could think that day and night alternate because the sun is moving.

But this impression is deceptive: in reality we humans live on a sphere that rotates: the earth. The sun stands still and illuminates the globe - but only ever one side. It is then light there, and if our place of residence is on this side, it is day for us right now.

But because the earth rotates, this place moves on. To us it looks like the sun is moving across the sky. And when our place turns over the edge of the light side, we can no longer see the sun: It goes down and it becomes dark night. Fortunately, the earth continues to rotate, and so we come back to the sunny side, it gets light again and a new day begins. Once the earth has rotated on its own axis, a day - i.e. 24 hours - has passed for us.

And in which direction is the earth turning? From a spaceship you could immediately see that the earth is turning to the east. On the surface of the earth you have to think about something: to us it looks like the sun is in the morning out coming to the east. But the reality is that in the morning we turn towards the sun, so to East.

That also means: the sun is already shining to the east of us. So it rises earlier in the east - and the earlier the further east you go: In Dresden, for example, the sun rises almost half an hour earlier than in Cologne. And if you call Germany in the morning from your vacation in Thailand, your conversation partner rings from deep sleep: The day starts six hours earlier there. Finally, in New Zealand, almost exactly on the other side of the world, it is always day when it is night here - and vice versa.

What is the moon

It is the brightest celestial body in the night sky: the moon. It shines so brightly on full moon nights that some people find it difficult to sleep. It appears as big as the sun and the stars look like tiny points of light next to it.

But the impression is deceptive: In reality, the moon (diameter: 3474 km) is only about a quarter the size of the earth (12742 km) - and the sun (1.39 million km) is even four hundred times larger. The moon only seems the same size to us because it is so close to us - the sun (distance to the earth about 150 million km) is also about four hundred times further away than the moon. (384,400 km, an airplane needs 18 days for this distance!)

The bright light is also deceptive: unlike the sun, the moon does not shine by itself, but is illuminated by the sun. Some of this light is then reflected back from the surface of the moon and hits the earth. Just because the moon is so close to us, enough light arrives on earth to light up the night - at least if the moon doesn't just seem to have disappeared without a trace ...


You don't experience a total solar eclipse every day. The Stuttgarters were all the more disappointed when a thick blanket of clouds blocked their view of the black sun. And instead of sunglasses, umbrellas were unpacked, because at the time of the solar eclipse a heavy rain pelted down. The event lasted only two and a half minutes. The sky darkened and really created a doom and gloom. And what probably annoyed the people of Stuttgart the most: At the decisive moment, of all places, a hole in the cloud cover opened up over the eternal local rival Karlsruhe and gave a view of the darkened sun.

The last total solar eclipse was seen in Germany in 1887, and the spectacle will only repeat itself in 2081. The media had announced the rare event as a spectacle long in advance and reported live in many cases - if there was something to see.

The umbra of the moon first hit the globe east of New York. In a few hours it then moved 14,000 kilometers across Europe to India, where it disappeared again from the surface of the earth in the Bay of Bengal. The European neighbors were also disappointed by the eclipse of the century due to the bad weather. Only in countries like Iran or India was there a clear view all the time and there was a big celebration.

Box seat above the clouds

Rich Americans and British have paid over € 4600 to get one of the coveted seats in the supersonic plane “Concorde”. While most people in Europe were annoyed by the cloudy sky on the ground, the Concorde overcame all obstacles: It simply flew after the moon's shadow and thus offered the occupants a view of the darkened sun for almost six hours. Nevertheless, there were complaints: Some passengers had no clear view of the solar eclipse due to the crowd at the window seats - and asked for their money back.