I want you to do anything you can do to make sure we have clear skies. On Sunday night Pray, mediate, hold a hair dryer to sky, whatever ever you can do leave the skies clear enough to see the first great total lunar eclipse since late September of 2015 and itíll be the last one we see around here until 2022. Itís an extra great this lunar time around because you wonít lose to much of your beauty sleep. This will be a near prime time total lunar eclipse that will begin at 9:34pm CST and will be completely over by 12:51am Monday morning, January 21st.
This should be quite a show as the moon slips into a ruddy hue during totality. Lunar eclipses occur when the moon in its orbit around the Earth passes through the Earthís shadow opposite the sun, known also as the umbra shadow. This can only happen during a full moon when our planet lies in a line between the sun and moon. But this doesnít occur every time there's a full moon because the moonís orbit around the Earth is tilted by five degrees to the Earthís orbit around the sun. Most of the time the full moon misses the Earthís shadow. It either passes above or below it. Not this time though. This Sunday evening the moon forges right into the umbra shadow and weíre in for some real eye candy!
Right around 9:34pm, youíll start to see the lower left side of moonís disk begin to darken and by 10pm youíll really begin to see a big bite being taken out of the moon. You canít help but notice that the shadow has a circular edge to it as it creeps across the lunar surface. Ancient Greek scientists saw this circular shadow of the Earth as proof the Earth was round. Now they were really ahead of their time!
From 10:41 until 11:43 the moon will be totally eclipsed but will still be visible. It could take on a bright orange hue or it might be bloody red. No one can really predict what hue the eclipsed moon will take on. Only the shadow knows, the Earthís umbra shadow that is. The umbra shadow opposite the sun is not totally dark because some of the sunís light manages to get to get to it through our Earthís atmospheric shell as you can see in the diagram. The sunlight that does get through is bent and strained as it comes through our atmosphere. All the blue and yellow components of the sunís light are scattered away leaving just reddish part of the sunís light that bathes the eclipsed moon. The shade of the red light reaching the moon depends on the combined atmospheric conditions of where the sunlight passes through on its way to the moon. That makes it impossible to know exactly what shade of red or orange the eclipsed moon will take on but itís also part of the fun of a total lunar eclipse.
No matter what shade of red the moon takes on itíll be beautiful and perfectly safe to look at. Unlike solar eclipses you donít have to look through any special glass or anything although anytime you stare at full moon it could effect youÖmaybe even make you a little luny!
A pop culture term that's emerged in the last couple of years is to refer to a totally eclipsed moon as a blood moon just because of its bloody red color and nothing else. It's not based of anything technical or astronomical and it certainly doesn't suggest that you should be afraid of lunar eclipses.
During totality youíll see the moon pass in front of or eclipse several stars. Not only does the moon rise in the east and set in the west just like the sun, just but it also takes a much slower eastward migration among the background of stars as it orbits the Earth every month. Normally itís hard to see these stellar eclipses because of the brightness of the moon but with the moon going through a one hour ďpower failureĒ theyíre a lot easier to see. Also, because the moon has no atmosphere, youíll see stars popping out of view on the eastern side of the moonís disk and popping into view on the western side.
Not only will we have a lunar eclipse or blood moon tonight the full moon month is also considered a supermoon. That tern is somewhat arbitrary. The full moon will physically be a little closer to Earth than it usually is but honestly all that much. With keen visual skill and imagination the moon tonight will appear a little larger than average. The supermoon is actually an astrology term coined by Richard Nolle back in 1979.
No matter if call it a lunar eclipse or a blood moon or a bloody supermoon itíll be a wonderful experience and one thatís worth losing a little sleep over!
Diagram of Lunar Eclipse...Click