Gorgeous Images of the August 2017 Partial Lunar Eclipse

Just to get you in the mood for the upcoming total solar eclipse — now less than two weeks away — our Solar System put on a little eclipse display of the lunar kind on August 7. The full Moon passed through part of the Earth’s umbral shadow, and the timing made this partial lunar […]

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Weekly Space Hangout – February 10, 2017: Weekend Eclipse, Occultation and Comet 45P!

Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain) Guests: Paul M. Sutter (pmsutter.com / @PaulMattSutter) Morgan Rehnberg (MorganRehnberg.com / @MorganRehnberg) Dave Dickinson (www.astroguyz.com / @astroguyz) Their stories this week: Comet 45P Flies Past Earth A new “kind” of black hole A Penumbral Lunar Eclipse The Moon Occults Regulus Mars didn’t have enough CO2 to sustain liquid water ISS is […]

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Watch the Moon Make a Pass at Earth’s Shadow, Then Kiss Regulus This Valentine’s Weekend

In the southern hemisphere this weekend in the ‘Land of Oz?’ Are you missing out on the passage of Comet 45/P Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková, and the penumbral lunar eclipse? Fear not, there’s an astronomical event designed just for you, as the Moon occults (passes in front of) the bright star Regulus on the evening of Saturday, January 11th.

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A Penumbral Lunar Eclipse Leads the Way to Easter Weekend

Chuck Manges

Ready for Easter? The first of two lunar eclipses for 2016 occurs this week, though it’s an event so subtle, you might not notice it at first glance. We’re talking about Wednesday evening’s (morning for North America) penumbral lunar eclipse. If a total solar eclipse such as the one that crossed Indonesia and the Pacific Ocean earlier this month is the ultimate astronomical experience, then a penumbral lunar eclipse is at the other end of the spectrum, a ghostly shading on the Moon that is barely noticeable.

Circumstances: A penumbral eclipse occurs when the Moon just grazes the outer faint shadow of the Earth, missing its dark inner core known as the umbra, as occurs during a total lunar eclipse. Standing on the Earthward-facing side of the surface of the Moon this Wednesday, you’d see a partial solar eclipse looking back at the Earth.

The penumbral eclipse begins at 9:39 Universal Time (UT) on Wednesday, March 23rd, reaches its peak at 11:48 UT with the Moon 78% immersed in the Earth’s penumbral shadow, and ends on 13:55 UT. The eclipse occurs during moonrise for Far East Asia Wednesday night, and moonset for the Americas on the morning of Wednesday, March 23rd. The central Pacific will witness the entire eclipse crossing the International Dateline, with the Moon high overhead for observers in Hawaii.

Tales of Saros

This particular eclipse is part of saros 142, and is number 18 of 74 in the series, which began on September 19th, 1709. Stick around until July 22nd 2214, and you can witness the very first total lunar eclipse of saros 142, which runs out to November 4th, 2989. If you saw the penumbral lunar eclipse of March 13th, 1998 which was visible from most of North America, then you caught the last lunar eclipse of the series.

As does every lunar eclipse by necessity, this week’s event falls on the Full Moon. The March Full Moon is known as a Worm Moon, and in 2016 is also the Paschal or first Full Moon after the vernal equinox setting us up for Easter this weekend. On the Gregorian calendar, the rule for Easter is the ‘first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the fixed date of March 21st for the vernal equinox,’ though an equinox won’t fall on March 21st again until 2102 AD. This is because of another rule from the Gregorian calendar, the skipping of century leap years except on years (such as 2000) divisible by 400, resets the date… all in a never-ending effort to keep sidereal and mean solar time in sync.

By coincidence, the Moon also occults (passes in front of) the +3.9 magnitude star Eta Virginis during the eclipse for observers in southeast Asia. Thanks to Malaysian-based observer Sharin Ahmad (@shahgazer on Twitter) for pointing this out to us.

So, what is there to see during a penumbral eclipse? Well, you might just notice a slight tea-colored shading on the lower southern limb of the Moon right around greatest eclipse. Make the judgment call: would you notice a penumbral eclipse at all if you didn’t know one was underway? The higher in the sky the Moon is, the better, as a low elevation Moon tends to become tinted via atmospheric refraction.

Here’s a photographic challenge: keeping all of your camera settings the same, image the Moon before during and after the eclipse… can you see the difference? A penumbral eclipse would be worthy of a short animation as well.

When is the next total lunar eclipse? Well, we’ve got another penumbral on September 16th of his year, but the next total lunar doesn’t occur until January 31st, 2018, again favoring the Pacific and western North America.

Oh well. We can always reminiscence of the lunar eclipse tetrad of past years. Let us know if you catch sight of this week’s penumbral eclipse.

…and while you’re out under (hopefully) clear March skies don’t miss Jupiter at its prime… and just maybe, binocular Comet 252P LINEAR, making its appearance for northern hemisphere observers this weekend as it flies through the constellation Scorpius in the pre-dawn.

-Be sure to send those pictures in to Universe Today!



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Challenge-Watch the Daytime Moon Occult Aldebaran for North America This Friday

How about that total lunar eclipse this past Sunday? Keep an eye of the waning gibbous Moon this week, as it begins a dramatic dive across the ecliptic towards a series of photogenic conjunctions throughout October. The Main Event: This week’s highlight is an occultation of the bright +0.9 magnitude star Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri) by […]

First Lunar Eclipse Ever Photographed with a Transit of the ISS

To our knowledge, this is the first time anyone has ever photographed a transit of the International Space Station of the Moon DURING a lunar eclipse. And guess who did it? Not surprisingly, it was the legendary astrophotographer Thierry Legault. Usually, Thierry will travel up to thousands of miles to capture unique events like this, […]

How to (Hopefully) Find Clear Skies for Tonight’s Total Lunar Eclipse

We’ve arrived at eclipse day, so now the big question is, will it be clear? My favorite forecast for major astronomical events reads something like this: Fair skies tonight with light winds and lows in the middle 50s.While I hope that’s exactly what’s predicted for your town, in my corner of the world we’re expecting “increasing […]