Weak lunar eclipse coming November 30

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.

NASA Solar and Earth images, illustration by James Guilford.
A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the thin outer portion of the shadow Earth casts out into space.

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.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse – November 30, 2020. Credit: F. Espenak, NASA’s GSFC eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html

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!

October 3: A brilliant pairing of lights

Earth’s Moon and Planet Mars will be just over one degree apart at 12:17 AM EDT, Saturday, October 3, as viewed from the Medina, Ohio area. Credit: Sky Safari/James Guilford

The night of October 2 – 3 will see a brilliant pairing of lights in our night sky. Earth’s Moon and planet Mars will shine close together — only a smidgen over a degree apart — in the southeast. As viewed from the Medina, Ohio area, Moon and Mars will be nearest each other at 12:17 AM EDT. Don’t worry if you can’t stay up, the two will be a beautiful pair to behold all night long.

Our Moon will be a day past Full and in its Waning Gibbous phase, so it will be round and bright. Mars, while too distant to be seen as a disc by the unaided eye, is nearing an unusually close approach to Earth during its opposition and will shine like a coppery star. Mars will be nearest to Earth, at 62 million kilometers (38,525,014 miles) distant, on October 6 and it won’t be that close again until 2035.

Opposition refers to a time in their orbits when Mars (or another planet) is opposite the Earth from the Sun — around that time is when the two bodies, on concentric racetrack orbits around the Sun, pass each other and are at their closest and brightest.

When Moon, Venus, and a Beehive got together

Conjunction of Earth’s Moon and planet Venus with M44 as a bonus! September 14, 2020. Photo by Frank Shoemaker.

CAA member Frank Shoemaker, despite challenging seeing conditions and the early hour, captured a fine image of the September 14 conjunction of Earth’s Moon and planet Venus. As luck would have it, the conjunction occurred in constellation Cancer home of the lovely open cluster M44, the “Beehive”. The technical info.: Canon EOS 6D Mark 2, 100mm, f/4.5, 19 seconds, 5:29 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Meanwhile, closer to Earth …

Studt_Crescent Moon
Our Moon. Day 27 of the Lunar cycle – 10% illumination. Photo by Alan Studt.

The eyes of stargazers have largely been focused on comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) of late but there are other dazzling sights the cosmos offers; among them is Earth’s Moon.

CAA member Alan Studt has been pursuing a project to photograph — as possible — Moon every day through its cycle of phases. He has captured most phases thus far. At the time of this writing, Luna was in her waning crescent phase with the sliver of lighted disk growing slimmer by the day. The crescent phases offer dramatic views of Moon due to low-angle sunlight casting longer shadows from lunar surface features.

Above is our Moon seen the morning of July 17, 2020, day 27 of the Lunar cycle – 10% illumination – 394,051.09 km away. Studt’s technicals: Four shots stitched, Nikon D850, 4400mm, f/20, ISO 2000, 1/80th sec.

Below is Moon accompanied by planet Venus, accentuated by sunrise-tinted thin clouds. Settings: Nikon D850, 350mm, F/5.6, ISO 250, 1/100th sec.

Studt Crescent Moon & Venus
The 27-day-old Moon and planet Venus float in sunrise-tinted clouds. Photo by Alan Studt.