Early on Election Day morning, early risers will have the opportunity to watch the November beaver moon undergo a total eclipse.
This will be the fourth and final lunar eclipse which has occurred at six month intervals from May last year until this year. Three of these eclipses in this series are total. One of them – the lunar eclipse of last November 19 – was partial, but barely; all but about two percent of the moon was submerged in Earth’s dark shadow (the darkest, innermost part of a shadow). If last November’s eclipse had been recorded as a total, it would have constituted four totalities spanning 2021 and 2022: a cycle known as the lunar eclipse tetrad..
The one ahead of us next Tuesday morning favors the western half of North America and the Hawaiian Islands (where the moon will appear almost directly overhead in mid-eclipse). Along the Atlantic coast, the moon will set as it begins to emerge from the total eclipse. For Central and East Asia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia, the eclipse will occur on Tuesday evening as the moon rises.
Related: Lunar eclipses 2022: when, where and how to see them
In total, Space.com estimates that 2.7 billion people will have the opportunity – weather permitting – to enjoy the best of this lunar spectacle. In other parts of the world, either only partial stages of the eclipse will be visible, or the eclipse will occur when it is daytime and the moon is not above their local horizon.
This map and accompanying diagram (opens in a new tab) illustrating the moon’s path through the Earth’s shadow are courtesy of Eclipsewise.com. The schedule below outlines what to expect at your location and when. The dashes indicate that the moon has set and is below the horizon.
|Penumbra visible for the first time?||3h48||2h48||1h48||00:48|
|The moon enters the shadow||4:08||3:08||2:08||1h08|
|The total eclipse begins||5:16||4:16||3:16||2h16|
|End of the total eclipse||6:41 a.m.||5:41||4:41||2h41|
|The moon leaves the shadow||—-||—-||5:49||4:49|
|Penumbra visible for the last time?||—-||—-||6:09||5:09|
The stages of the eclipse
A total lunar eclipse has five stages, with different things to watch out for at each.
The first phase of penumbra begins when the leading edge of the moon enters the pale outer fringe of Earth’s shadow, called the penumbra. But the shading is so weak that most people won’t notice until about 70% of the lunar disk is submerged in twilight; or about 20 minutes before first contact with the much darker umbral shadow. Some people with exceptionally acute vision can detect the penumbra when the moon has penetrated about halfway through the penumbra or about 30 minutes before it first touches the shadow. Wait for a slight darkening to become apparent on the upper left side of the moon. The penumbra (or “spot”) shading becomes stronger as the minutes pass and the moon sinks deeper.
The second stage is the partial eclipse. It begins much more dramatically when the front (left) edge of the moon enters the umbra, the inner shadow of the Earth, where no direct sunlight reaches. With a telescope, you can watch the edge of shadow slowly engulf lunar craters, mountains, and seas (the darkest plains on the moon’s surface), as your local night sky slowly and gradually darkens. . Take note of the Pleiades star cluster, which will be located above the moon, becoming more prominent as the eclipse progresses.
Just over an hour after the partial eclipse, there is only one last bright moonlight left outside the shadow. And the rest of the moon is probably showing an odd reddish/coppery glow. The contrast of both light and color has led some to call it the “Japanese lantern effect”.
Then comes the third stage: the total eclipse, which begins when the last edge of the moon slips into shadow. Although the sun here is completely hidden, the moon is likely to glow some shade of red or orange. These hues are caused by sunlight skimming and bending through the earth’s atmosphere: it’s the combined light of all the sunrises and sunsets ringing our world at any given time. If an astronaut stood on the moon, he would see the sun completely hidden and the dark disk of Earth (appearing almost four times larger than the moon to us) surrounded by a thin ring of red or orange light. And this light, in turn, falls on the surrounding lunar landscape.
Light or dark?
On rare occasions, such as 1963 and 1992, the fully eclipsed moon turns almost black. On other occasions, such as 1967 and 2003, it may appear as shiny as a newly minted penny. Sometimes, rather than a distinctive red or orange, it turns brown and looks more like the color of a milk chocolate bar.
Two factors determine the moon’s brightness and color during totality. The first is how deep the moon penetrates the shadow; the center of the shadow is much darker than its edges. For this upcoming eclipse, the moon will be heading north from the center of the shadow. In the middle of the eclipse, the moon’s lower limb will just graze the shadow’s center, but its upper limb will be nestled about 780 miles (1,250 kilometers) inside the shadow’s outer edge. Thus, the upper part of the moon’s disc should appear significantly brighter than the lower part.
The other factor is the state of the Earth’s atmosphere along the sunrise-sunset line. If the air is very clear, the eclipse is bright. But if a major volcanic eruption has recently polluted the atmosphere with an aerosol cloud or a fine global haze, the eclipse will be ashen gray, or almost black. The Agung volcano in Indonesia in 1963 and the Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines in 1991 were the main reasons why the lunar eclipses that followed their eruptions were so dark.
Additionally, blue light refracted by Earth’s clear, ozone-rich upper atmosphere can also add to the scene, especially near the edge of the shadow.
Out of the shadows
As was the case last May, the duration of totality will be exceptionally long, lasting 85 minutes. And then, as the moon continues east along its orbit, events repeat themselves in reverse order. The leading edge of the moon re-emerges into sunlight, ending totality and beginning stage four: a partial eclipse again.
When the entire moon escapes the penumbra, only the last penumbral shading remains for the fifth stage. This final twilight is slowly fading, leaving the bright Mid-Autumn Full Moon to return to its normal form.
Look for Uranus too!
By serendipitous coincidence, the planet Uranus, magnitude +5.6, will appear within 2 degrees to the top left of the moon during totality. Spot it with your binoculars or telescope by first observing the +6.3 magnitude yellow-white star HIP 13448 which during totality will appear about one degree to the top left of the moon. Then continue a similar distance in the same direction until you come to another “star” appearing about twice as bright as HIP 13448. Only it won’t be a star, but the sixth planet from the sun. Can you see something of the aquamarine blue-green hue of Uranus? The contrast with the orange-red moon can make this color a bit more obvious.
And for some fortuitous locations: northwestern North America, Asia, Japan, and arctic regions, the moon will actually occult (hide) Uranus.
In a telescope, Uranus is a small disc 3.7 arcseconds wide. It is 1.74 billion miles (2.8 billion km) from Earth compared to 240,000 miles (387,000 km) from the Moon.
Joe Rao is an instructor and guest speaker at New York’s Hayden Planetarium (opens in a new tab). He writes on astronomy for natural history journal (opens in a new tab)the Farmers Almanac (opens in a new tab) and other publications. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) and on Facebook (opens in a new tab).
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