Come Sunday, strap on your binoculars and look skywards; there’s a cosmic surprise in store. Not only a total lunar eclipse but also a supermoon will grace the sky this weekend.
The Earth, sun, and moon will line up in somewhat rare synchronicity for what will be the only total lunar eclipse this year. And the next. To add extra fanfare to the occasion, the moon will orbit slightly closer to the Earth and will manifest as bigger and brighter than usual. This is what experts call a “supermoon.”
Speaking to the Associated Press, Rice University astrophysicist Patrick Hartigan is excited: “This one is particularly good,” he says, “It not only is a supermoon and a total eclipse, but the total eclipse also lasts pretty long. It’s about an hour.”
So fill a thermos, prop open a camping chair, and settle in for an evening show. The eclipse will begin on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 20 or early Monday morning, depending on your location. The spectacle may last for up to three hours.
Experts predict that around 22:34 on Jan. 20, the Earth’s shadow will begin to tickle the corner of the moon, or what’s called the “partial phase.” Taking just over an hour to reach “totality,” the Earth’s shadow will cover the moon at around 23:41 and the darkness will last for 62 minutes.
An eclipsed moon is sometimes known as a “blood moon,” and for good reason. The moon will appear red during the “totality” phase as a result of scattered sunlight rebounding from the Earth’s atmosphere.
To add to the folkloric reputation of the moon, a January full moon is also sometimes known as a “wolf moon” or “great spirit moon.”
The upcoming lunar eclipse will be a super blood wolf moon. And if viewers are treated to clear skies, then countries that may view the entire eclipse include North and South America, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and the French and Spanish coasts. The rest of Europe, as well as Africa, should enjoy a peripheral view before the setting of the sun.
If you live in Asia, Australia, or New Zealand, sorry folks! Better luck next time. By way of consolation, these countries had front-row seats for two total lunar eclipses last year.
Patrick Hartigan will be watching from Houston:
“[Parents] can keep their kids up maybe a little bit later,” he advised. “It’s just a wonderful thing for the whole family to see because it’s fairly rare to have all these things kind of come together at the same time … the good thing about this is that you don’t need any special equipment.”
Enthusiasts watching from America can enjoy the first stirrings of the cosmic event in the early evening on Sunday; truly a family-friendly schedule. However, the weather forecast isn’t too promising, so warm clothes and something to guard against potential rain could be advised.
We’ll have to wait until May of 2021 for the next total lunar eclipse.
However, full-moon supermoons simply can’t get enough of the night sky; this will be the first of three in 2019.
Have you ever seen a total lunar eclipse? Will you be watching on Sunday? Spread the news before time runs out!