Now that the “blizzard” has passed the skies are clearing and Mother Nature has a show to put on for us tonight!
This evening the full Blood Moon will be eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow. Earth casts a shadow opposite the sun into space for about 870,000 miles. The outer part of the shadow is called the Penumbra and the inner, darker part, the Umbra. Lunar Eclipses occur when the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow. If you want to know more about Lunar Eclipses here’s a great article from JPL.
This evening beginning at 9:36pm the Moon will begin entering the Penumbra. Over the next 57 minutes you may be able to detect a faint dimming of the Moon. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t notice it, things get better! At around 10:33pm the Moon will begin entering the Umbra. Over the next 68 minutes, you will notice the Moon looks like it’s slowly having a bite taken out of it. The portion of the Moon in the Umbra will appear very dark.
The best part of the show begins at 11:41pm when the Moon will be completely covered by the Umbra. It can appear anywhere from a copper red to being barely visible depending on contaminants high in the atmosphere. Most notably, lunar eclipses observed after a large volcanic eruption (like Mount Pinatubo in 1991) saw the moon become a very dark grey, to almost black. Fortunately, for us, this eclipse should have some nice coloration.
The moon will take about 63 minutes to pass through the Umbra. So, for more than an hour you’ll be able to see a beautiful reddish full moon, high in the sky. When the Moon begins coming out of the Umbra, you’ll see the reverse of the early part of the eclipse. The Partial Umbral Phase ends at 1:5am.
What do you need to see this? Nothing more than your naked eyes. Binoculars or a telescope will show variations of color in the shadow on the Moon, but you don’t need them to enjoy this spectacle. The most necessary equipment will be dressing warmly in several layers, make sure you wear gloves and a hat, it’s going to be COLD! So have some hot chocolate nearby and enjoy the show!
If the clouds come back in, or you really don’t want to brave single digit temps, you can view the eclipse here.