Coming Eclipse Season features a remarkable Supermoon

Lunar and solar eclipse (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Lunar and solar eclipse (Photo courtesy of NASA)

 

Maybe you think of winter, spring, summer and fall as your year’s seasons but astronomers also have at least one other seasonal time frame: Eclipse Season. It is the short period when a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse happen near each other.

Coming up is a short lunar eclipse on May 26, 2021. Don’t blink because you may miss it.

It is called short because totality lasts just a bit more than 14 minutes. According to astronomers, that is the 10th shortest totality for a lunar eclipse between the years 1600 and 2599.

To better understand what will be happening,  know that during the lunar eclipse a full moon will be moving through the Earth’s umbral shadow and be fully in that shadow for slightly more than 14 minutes. But the entire movement through the shadow will be about three hours.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains that the part of the United States where you are watching the eclipse will matter as to totality with west of the Mississippi River better than east.

But as TV commercials say Wait. The eclipse is just part of May’s lunar special event. Because the May full moon’s orbit takes it closer to Earth than the year’s other full moons, it will be 2021’s best and brightest Supermoon. During the eclipse, it will appear as a blood moon.

The lunar event is followed by an annular solar eclipse on June 10. That eclipse’s partial phases will make it the 5th longest worldwide for an annular solar eclipse that happens in the same season as a total lunar eclipse.

But forget about blinking. Proper glasses or other safety precautions are needed to protect your eyesight.

EarthSky has an excellent summary of Eclipse Season. Also see Time and Date  for information on both the lunar and solar eclipses this year and in the future.

 

 

Lunar eclipse happenings

NASA photo of a lunar eclipse June 15, 2011. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
NASA photo of a lunar eclipse June 15, 2011. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Look up the night of Jan 20 into morning of Jan 21. You won’t need a telescope or special glasses. It’s a “Supermoon,” “Wolfmoon,” “Bloodmoon. Ooh, it’s disappearing.

 

Eclipse Times

About midnight, CT, the full moon will have fully moved in its orbit between the earth and the sun. so it won’t be reflecting the sun’s rays. The total eclipse will last a long time – an hour.

The Adler Planetarium site lists Central Times for when it begins and happens as partial eclipse starting at 9:34 pm, and total eclipse from 10:41 to 11:43 pm, Jan. 20. Then watch as the moon emerges from behind the earth Jan.l 21.

In Universal Time the eclipse will last almost 3½ hours from the beginning of the partial phase at 3:34 UT until it ends at 6:51 UT. Totality lasts 63 minutes, from 4:41 to 5:44 UT.

 

Moon Names

So why “Supermoon?” “The moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle,” said Adler Director of Public Observing Michelle Nichols. “Sometimes it is closer to earth so it looks larger,” Nichols said. She noted that the closest it will come near the eclipse will be during the day of Jan. 21 at 1:59 p.m. She calls the appearance of the rising moon seeming to loom large, “an optical illusion.”

She suggested viewers use the thumb test. “Put an arm straight out and cover the moon with your thumb. Then, do it again later when the moon is over head. It will be the same size.”

“Bloodmoon” is a term describing the moon’s color during total eclipse. “Sometimes it looks brick red, sometimes grayish. The sunlight is reflecting at the edge of the earth. The earth has blotted out the blue of the sun so sometimes it could be reddish sometimes grayish. It also depends on how dusty the earth’s atmosphere is,” Nichols said.

“Wolfmoon” is a term for the first full moon of the year, acquired over the years similar to Harvest Moon and Hunter Moon. It also has other names such as Ice Moon according to Time and Date

which explains that people often named the full moons according to the seasons and the phenomena they associated with its time of year.

 

Where to Watch

View outside your abode. See it happening inside on a live stream at Time and Date Live which will be streaming the event on its site.

But to appreciate and enjoy the lunar eclipse with astronomers go over to the Adler for “Lunapalooza.”  The outside observing part is free. Inside events, adults $12, children $8 (members free) include seeing the new Adler show “Imagine the Moon” which charts how people considered the moon over the centuries. Lunar eclipse

 

More Sky and Eclipse Information

These sites have charts, photos and lots of good astronomy information: Time and Date, Earth and Sky, Sky and Telescope and Space.