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A Great Total Lunar Eclipse Is Coming Soon!

More than three years have passed since most of North America saw a good total lunar eclipse. So be sure to insert a large circle in your calendar for Sunday, January 20th.

The observation circumstances for the full moon eclipse that evening will be as good as they can get for most of the United States and Canada. The eastern part of the continent has the best view, but the spectacle of the moon completely immersed in the shadow of the Earth will be easily visible from one coast to another. Also the duration of the whole will be longer than normal: it will last 1 hour and 2 minutes.

Moreover, coming as it does in the early evening, the eclipse should arouse wide interest among the millions of people who can see it during normal waking hours. Amateur groups should seize this opportunity to alert schools and the media about their eclipse activities and amateur astronomy in general. How about organizing a neighborhood eclipse party? [Super Blood Moon Total Lunar Eclipse: Complete Guide]

  A map showing the regions that can see January 21, 2019, total lunar eclipse.

A map showing regions that can display January 21, 2019, total lunar eclipse.

Credits: Espenak / Meeus / NASA / GSFC

To describe a lunar eclipse, I like to use a cinematic analogy. The "theater", in this case, is the nocturnal side of the Earth. The "screen" is the full moon, and the "film" is the progression of the shadow of the Earth through the face of the moon.

Everyone in the theater watching the movie sees the same thing that everyone else sees around them. And in the same way, all those on the night side of the Earth that has the full moon in the sky during the eclipse will see the same sequence of events happen at the same time in time.

The total phase of the eclipse will be visible from the western hemisphere, from Europe and from the western part of Africa, as well as from the northernmost parts of Russia. In all, assuming good weather conditions, this small shady drama will have a potential audience of about 2.8 billion spectators .

Of course, as in the case of a large theater, auditorium or concert hall, some will have a better view than others. For the upcoming eclipse, the "orchestral posts" will surely be in North America, which will see this heavenly performance high up in the mid-winter sky. "Center in the front row" belongs to those who live near and along the east coast of the United States, where the totally eclipsed moon will rise to extraordinary levels.

In mid-New York, the darkened moon will rise 70 degrees relative to the southern horizon: the closed fist held at a distance of about 10 degrees in width is thus "seven punches" from the horizon. The last time the New Yorkers could look so high in a totally eclipsed moon was in 1797, when John Adams was president; the next opportunity will not come until 2113. Further south, the moon will appear even higher. From Cape Hatteras, it will reach 75 degrees; Orlando, 80 degrees; and Miami, 83 degrees.

And from the eastern part of Cuba, the moon will appear directly above its head.

In contrast, for those in Europe, the eclipse will take place at the bottom in the western sky as the moon approaches sunset at dawn on Monday, January 21st. In fact, for Central and Eastern Europe, the moon sets before it is completely free of the Earth's shadow.

Here is a complete schedule detailing the various phases of the eclipse for six different hours zones:

Local circumstances of the total lunar eclipse of 20 -21 January 2019
Standard Time Eastern Central Mountain Pacific Alaska Hawaii [19659024] The moon enters the dim light 21:36 8:36 pm 7:36 pm 6:36 pm
The moon enters the shadow 22:34 9:34 pm 8:34 pm 7:34 pm 6:34 pm
Total eclipse start 11: 41 pm 10:41 pm 9: 41 pm 8:41 pm 7:41 pm 6:41 pm
Middle of eclipse 12:13 am 23:13 22:13 [19659031] 21:13 20:13 7:13 pm
End of the total eclipse 12:43 [19659025] 11:43 pm 1 0:43 pm 9:43 pm 8:43 pm 7:43 pm
Moon leaves umbra 1:51 am 12: 51 am 11: 51 pm 10:51 pm 21:51 8:51 pm
The moon leaves dim light 2:48 am 1:48 am 12:48 am 11:48 pm 10:48 pm 9:48 pm

What really makes this event "America & # 39; s Eclipse" are two viewing criteria that I have determined specifically for states contigui (48):

1) The entire eclipse is visible from the beginning to the end.

2) The whole begins before midnight from coast to coast.

In my more than 50 years of observing lunar eclipses, only two eclipses meet these criteria. One occurred in April 1968 and the other occurred on the same date – January 20 – 19 years ago. As you can see by looking at the time, our imminent eclipse also qualifies.

And it will take place on Sunday evening of the three-day weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States. This will be the first time in 1975 that a total lunar eclipse coincides with a holiday weekend. On Monday, without school, children of all ages should be able to stand up and watch this lunar show, no matter how late it is.

  This NASA chart offers basic details on January 21, 2019, total lunar eclipse. The red circle is the darkest shadow of the Earth, the shadow. The thick gray ring around is the outer part of the shadow of the Earth, the dim light. The thin black rings indicate the position of the moon as it moves through the shadow of the Earth.

This chart from NASA offers basic details on January 21, 2019, total lunar eclipse. The red circle is the darkest shadow of the Earth, the shadow. The thick gray ring around is the outer part of the shadow of the Earth, the dim light. The thin black rings indicate the position of the moon as it moves through the shadow of the Earth.

Credit: Espenak / Meeus / NASA / GSFC

Most of Alaska will see all stages of the eclipse without hindrance, but the eclipse will already be underway while the moon rises from the Aleutian Islands.

Similarly, observers in Hawaii should pay close attention to the full moon that rises on Sunday evening around 6:10 pm. Hawaiian time, because the eclipse will already be under way. As the sun sets west-southwest, the moon will rise from the opposite side of the sky to the east-north-east; and the shadow of the Earth will already cover the lower half of the lunar disk. An interesting observation to try is to try and see the partially darkened rising moon and the setting sun at the same time. In a perfect syzygy alignment like this, such an observation would seem impossible; but thanks to our atmosphere, the images of the sun and the moon are "raised" above the horizon from atmospheric refraction. This allows us to see the sun for several more minutes after it has actually been set and the moon for several extra minutes before it actually gets up. This situation is known as "selenelion". The low moon partially obscured in dark blue tropical dusk should offer a wide range of interesting scenic possibilities for both artists and photographers. [What Is a Lunar Eclipse? When and Why Blood Moons Occur]

As we approach the night of the eclipse, Space.com will provide an "observer kit" for the eclipse and we will go much deeper detail on what to look for. But for the moment I will provide a more or less summary of what to expect.

The first event listed is the edge of the moon that penetrates into the dim light, the pale outer portion of the Earth's shadow. However, this event is completely unobservable. No change will be visible until about 25 minutes before the moon begins to enter the darker shadow. Then, a slight tinge should be detectable on the east (left) side of the moon, which, when the minutes appear, will seem to spread and deepen.

When the moon begins to enter the shadow, the change is dramatic. This part of the Earth's shadow is much darker than the dim light and quite sharp. While the umbra swallows more than the moon, the eclipsed part will probably start to glow with a dark brown or ocher shade.

During the totality, which will last 62 minutes, the moon will seem to shine like a disquieting ball – that for the eyes, and especially in the binoculars and small telescopes, will appear almost three-dimensional. The color of the moon during the next whole is not known. Some eclipses are so dark, gray-black that the moon almost disappears from sight. During other eclipses, it can illuminate a bright orange.

The reason the moon can be seen when totally eclipsed is that sunlight is scattered and refracted around the Earth from our atmosphere, and enough of this light reaches the moon to give it a faint copper glow even when it is totally eclipsed. Since the moon will travel through the northern part of the Earth's shadow, the top of its disk will probably appear brighter than the bottom, as the top will be closer to the outer edge of the Earth's shadow.

The end ends when the north-eastern limb (top left) emerges from the shadow. Events now take place in reverse order. The edge of the shadow will take little more than one hour to retreat to the face of the moon. In another 25 minutes, even the last shade of the penumbrico should have disappeared, leaving the full moon to its normal splendor.

As someone who has been involved with broadcast news for over four decades, I can tell you that mainstream media is currently in what can best be described as a "branding mania". Terms such as "polar vortex" and "bomb cyclone" are two examples of words that journalists now use when describing a looming cold weather spell or a rapidly escalating storm, respectively. Broadcast consultants advise news gathering agencies to do this to attract immediate attention to a story.

Now, with the lunar eclipse approaching, we discover that this has also acquired a mark. That is to say, the eclipse "Super Blood Wolf Moon".

Traditionally, the full moon of January is known as the "Moon of the Wolf". It is said that names like these have been handed down by people who lived in old England or Native Americans and are now promulgated in many popular almanacs, as well as here on Space.com. [Full Moon Names: From Wolf Moons to Cold Moons]

The term "Blood Moon" is at least an improper term. In fact, as I said before, the color (or colors) that the moon will assume during the whole will depend a lot on the state of our atmosphere and can vary from black or gray to brown or red up to something like a bright copper penny . So labeling a lunar eclipse as appearing in the color of blood is simply wrong.

I strongly suspect that the term came from a book that was published in 2013 by two Christian theorists on the day of judgment who suggested a series of total lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015 marked disastrous portents. And what better way to suggest possible catastrophes than to invoke the mention of blood? How sad it is that in our world of the 21st century, prophets of misfortune are still hiding that promote a lunar eclipse – a phenomenon that enriches life – as a forerunner of some cataclysmic event.

PS … The eclipses came and went, the supposed disasters never happened, but unfortunately the Blood Moon brand remains.

Sometimes, a full moon coincides with the perigee – that point in the orbit of the moon when it is closer to the Earth – and it will appear a little larger than usual. Traditionally, a full moon that occurs within 90% of the perigee of the moon gains the title "supermoon". Apparently, this is the real reason why this upcoming full moon is called a "super" moon. And the fact that it coincides with a total eclipse has enthusiastic media.

But frankly, a so-called "supermoon" is not really that big when it coincides with a total lunar eclipse. The duration of the totality is based mainly on the distance of the moon from the Earth. When the moon is near the perigee, it moves faster in its orbit, than when it is near the apogee, its point farthest from the Earth; then quickly sweeps through the umbra.

In fact, if the moon were close to the apogee, I determined that we would see up to 8 additional minutes of totality .

So get excited if you want the unusual proximity of the moon during the eclipse of this month, and call it "super" if you want. But the bottom line is that when the moon is near, the amount of time that is completely immersed in the shadow will be greatly reduced compared to a farthest moon in space.

If only the mainstream media could say it as it is and simply say that on January 20, we will be treated to one of the great nature sky shows.

A total lunar eclipse!

Joe Rao is a guest lecturer and guest lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium in New York. He writes about astronomy for the Natural History magazine, the Peasant Almanac and other publications, and is also a meteorologist for Verizon FiOS1 News in the Lower Hudson Valley in New York. Follow us on Twitter @ Spacedotcom and on Facebook. Original article on Space.com.

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