Midnight Supermoon Total Lunar Eclipse

Weather update for the Midnight Supermoon Total Lunar Eclipse*:

Looks like clearing skies for much of the eastern seaboard, but the prospect of intensely cold windchills has dampened plans for any kinds of communal viewing.

Here’s the link to the forecast for White Plains, NY and the plot of the data : and the clear sky chart (find one for your area):

Clear enough to see the moon most of the time. The moon will be high enough in the sky that you’ll need to step outside and view it. Get a spot shielded from the wind and dress warmly. Go out a few times at critical moments: before 10:30pm to see the moon only faintly in shadow, between 10:30 and 11:30 to see the moon partly in shadow and around 12:15am to see the maximum eclipse. Keep lights to a minimum. If you do these three or four times outside looking at the moon for a few minutes, I say you have earned your lunar eclipse merit badge (if there is one!). Use binoculars, but don’t stress if you don’t have them. If you are snowed in, don’t despair! Look out in a dark part of a snowbank – an area only lit by the moon at various times, noting the changes in the brightness of the snow.


*

  • Wolf moon? With respect to the original owners of our United States, “Wolf” doesn’t say anything about the moon we’ll be seeing. Blood moon? Really. This isn’t the apocalypse. It’s the second largest full moon of the year and on the east coast it’s at midnight !

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.

Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA’s GSFC

 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!

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