Sunday / Monday January 20/21 2019
Get ready for the colorful total lunar eclipse on the night of January 20th / 21st when our moon will be sliding through the northern part of the Earth’s shadow. Our moon will be deepest in the Earth’s shadow around 12:14am Eastern Time. It’ll be visible at the same time everywhere, but the time on your clock will depend on your time zone. For example, folks on the Pacific Coast will see the peak eclipse at 9:14 Pacific Time, right in TV Prime Time. Many people will have a day off on Monday for the Martin Luther King Day holiday.
Our moon’s cratered southern edge never quite gets to the center of the Earth’s shadow. Colors may range from reddish on the southern part of the moon to a brighter white or bluish northern edge that almost seems to be outside the shadow. As a pre-teen watching one of my first lunar eclipses in the late 1960s, I was upset when my parents made me come in halfway through an eclipse just like this one. I thought (wrongly) the moon hadn’t reached totality; so don’t be disappointed if it the moon never seems to appear totally dark.
I’m not a bit fan of the term ‘supermoon’, since the original definition was any full moon closer to the Earth than average. That means we can have 5, 6, maybe 7 ‘supermoons’ a year. Not so super. However, the eclipse is maximum just 15 hours before our moon is closest to Earth for January. Only February’s full moon is closer in 2019. High in the southern sky, the moon will not look noticeably larger than usual. In fact, the optical illusion of the jumbo moon looming over the horizon dissipates when we crane our necks to see our moon stuck like a piece of gum high on the celestial sphere. This night, we’ll follow it from the start of the partial lunar eclipse at 10:34pmEST at 61 degrees above the southeastern horizon to the deepest eclipse at 12:12am 69 degrees high in the south.
Therefore, this won’t be a look-out-your-living-room-window eclipse, unless you have a skylight in the direction of the moon or a car with a moon roof (Will a Sun roof work as well?). This is a get dressed, get out in the middle of the night, find the moon and lay back and watch as your eyes pick up fainter stars while the moonlight turns down like on a rheostat to a reddish glow. Around 10pm, the Earth’s shadow will be a light gray shading on the southeastern quadrant of the moon. After 10:30, darkness descends on the edge of the moon and engulfs the disc through midnight and edges off the moon just before 2am.
Use a lounge chair to aim yourself up at our moon and a sleeping bag to keep warm as the dew condenses on you. No optical aid is needed, but a pair of binoculars can give an even better view.
9:36pm EST: P1: Enter Partial Lunar Shadow
10:34pm EST: U1:Enter Full Lunar Shadow
11:41pm EST: U2:Enter Total Eclipse
12:12am EST: Deepest Eclipse
12:43am EST: U3:End of Total Eclipse
1:51am EST: U4: Exit Full Lunar Shadow
2:48am: P4: Exit Partial Lunar Shadow
The next total lunar eclipse visible from the eastern United States will be on May 15/16, 2022, so see this one if you can!