We are gearing up for a fantastic astronomical show next weekend with a total lunar eclipse on Sunday evening! Below I will discuss what a lunar eclipse is, where it will be visible, and when you can expect to see it from your area.
What is a total lunar eclipse?
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon falls completely into Earth’s shadow. The Earth sits between the moon and the sun as demonstrated in the following graphic:
All of the direct light from the sun is being blocked by the Earth. Since no direct sunlight is being reflected of the moon to produce our familiar nightly view, we are left with the phenomenon known as a lunar eclipse.
During the eclipse, some sunlight which has been refracted by Earth’s atmosphere will be reflected off the moon. This will paint the moon with a strange red hue.
Can I see it where I live?
NASA has produced the following map showing where the eclipse will be visible. The full eclipse will be visible in North America, while Europe and Africa will be able to see the eclipse briefly as the moon sets in the sky.
When does it take place?
As the earth moves across our sky from West to East, it will start begin entering the Earth’s penumbra where the sunlight is partially occluded, then enter umbra where the sunlight is fully occluded then reverse the process.
The eclipse will begin on Sunday, January 20th at 9:36 PM EST and end on Monday, January 21st at 2:38 AM EST.
The full eclipse cycle from the time the moon enters the Earth’s penumbra will last 5 hours, 11 minutes and 30 seconds.
The eclipse will be in totality for 1 hour, 1 minute and 59 seconds from 11:41 PM EST to 12:43 AM EST.
The exact timing of each point of the eclipse noted on the diagram above can be found in the table below:
There is a possible winter storm on the horizon that might impact our viewing of the total lunar eclipse.
It is too early to know for certain the exact track and timing of the storm, so right now it is just something we need to keep a close eye on. We should have a better picture of the weather by the end of the week. Keeping our fingers crossed that we have an opening in the weather to see this amazing astronomical event.