Although high in the night’s sky, our waxing Gibbous Moon has been decidedly orange. Smoke, high in the atmosphere from North American wildfires, has tinted what should be a bright white Moon in the colors of moonset. Ruddy or not, we love that we can see mountain peaks and crater edges peeking up from the darkness just left of the sunlight terminator line.
There will be a lunar eclipse the morning of November 30, 2020 but you may not want to get out of a warm bed to view it — it will be fairly “weak.” This month’s eclipse, viewable in its entirely from Northern Ohio (given clear skies) is of the penumbral variety and will not display the eerie colors that make total lunar eclipses so exciting.
A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Full Moon passes through the shady outer circle — the penumbra — of Earth’s shadow streaming out into space. Careful observers will note how most of Moon dims slightly with a sliver of a brighter southern edge and a darker northern area. During a total lunar eclipse, the Full Moon passes fully through the darkest portion of Earth’s shadow, the umbra, and is illuminated by the colors of the globe’s sunrises and sunsets. Again, that won’t happen this time.
Most of Monday’s event is quite subtle and takes a long time, many won’t even notice the difference. If you want to see this eclipse at its best, even photogenic, view it only around maximum. The penumbral eclipse begins [P1] at 2:32 AM, reaches its Greatest eclipse (you may note northern darkening) at 4:52 AM, and the event ends [P4] at 6:53 AM when Moon completes its emergence from Earth’s shade.
The next total lunar eclipse — the type that features coppery-red colors at its peak — will take place May 26, 2021; unfortunately, that event will reach its maximum as Moon sets locally. The next total lunar eclipse that we might see in its entirety will take place May 16, 2022 and that should be a doozie!
Despite the fact it was 9 degrees (F) and just before 11:00 PM, I simply had to go out and try a shot of the Monday night (January 21) close conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter. Skies had cleared and the day’s occasional snows stopped, so I had a good opportunity. I stepped out on to our sidewalk and, tolerating the frigid breeze as long as I could, shot several exposures, bracketing the shutter speed. I only got one or two that were acceptable to me mostly due to focus being off. The image I’m sharing is sharp enough that (in the uncompressed original) even shows hints of Jupiter’s cloud belts, diagonal here in its tiny disk. None of Jove’s moons show due to the short exposure needed to record Earth’s Moon, just hours away from apogee. Pictures done and shared, it was off to slumberland having witnessed a cold celestial dance before bed. — James Guilford
Notes: Single-exposure image — Canon EOS 50D: ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/500 sec., 400mm lens (600mm equiv.), cropped and adjusted in Adobe Photoshop.