January 20 – 21: Total Lunar Eclipse

Photo: Total Lunar Eclipse Sequence, February 2008
Total Lunar Eclipse Sequence, February 2008. – Images and Composite by Lynn Paul

Exciting News: A total lunar eclipse will take place January 20 – 21 and our area will be able to view the entire event, IF we are fortunate enough to have clear skies!

On the night of January 20, 2019 Earth’s shadow will cross the face of its Moon and viewers across North America will be treated to a total lunar eclipse. We, in Northeastern Ohio, are in luck this time as the entire eclipse will be visible to us given clear enough skies, of course.

Image: January 2019 Total Lunar Eclipse Timing - Credit: TimeAndDate.com
January 2019 Total Lunar Eclipse Timing – Credit: TimeAndDate.com

As the penumbral phase of the eclipse begins, at 9:36 PM, viewers will see the Full Moon gradually dimming, entering the lighter outer portion of Earth’s shadow. At 10:33 the partial eclipse begins and the disk of the Moon will show a dark, curved area expanding across its area. As the Moon moves deeper into shadow it will continue to darken until begin to glow a copper-red until at totality, 11:41 PM, Luna will hang colorfully in our star-sprinkled sky as totality begins — the time the Moon is fully within the darkest portion of Earth’s shadow, known as the umbra. Maximum eclipse is reached at 12:12 AM (Jan. 21) and totality ends at 12:43 AM.

As the eclipse ends, the process reverses until in the wee hours of Monday, the Full Moon will brightly shine again. Click here for more information from TimeAndDate.com.

NOTES: A telescope is not necessary for your enjoyment of this wondrous natural phenomenon, just go outside and look up! Binoculars or a small telescope may give a more detailed view but are not required. A lunar eclipse is completely safe to watch — it’s moonlight — so you need no special glasses or vision protection.

Want to see Wednesday’s total lunar eclipse? TV or online are best bet!

Photo: Umbral Shadow Crossing Moon by James Guilford
Umbral Shadow Crossing Moon by James Guilford

A total lunar eclipse will take place in the pre-dawn hours of January 31 but interested viewers in Northeastern Ohio are not well-favored! Weather conditions predicted for Wednesday morning are poor (mostly cloudy, at best) and the timing of the eclipse event itself works against us; at best we would see only a portion of the partial phase before our Moon sets!

Our best bet for watching this total lunar eclipse will be to view it on television or via streaming video. NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of the celestial spectacle beginning at 5:30 a.m. EST. Weather permitting, the broadcast will feature views from the varying vantage points of telescopes at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California; Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles; and the University of Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter Observatory. You can access the live NASA broadcast via some cable television services, or online through NASA’s Moon webpages.

If skies do clear enough to see the Moon from our area, here’s a timetable for significant points in the upcoming eclipse as viewed from the city of Oberlin — the timing would be off only by a few seconds viewed from other areas of Northeastern Ohio.

Timetable of January 31, 2018 Total Lunar Eclipse. Credit: TimeAndDate.com
Timetable of January 31, 2018 Total Lunar Eclipse. Credit: TimeAndDate.com

This eclipse event is getting special attention because it offers the rare coincidence of three lunar events: A “supermoon,” a “blue moon” and a total lunar eclipse at the same time. A “supermoon” occurs when the Moon is closest to Earth in its orbit (at or near perigee) and appears about 14 percent brighter than usual. As the second Full Moon of the month, this Moon is also commonly called a Blue Moon, though it will not be blue in appearance. The “Super Blue Moon” will pass through Earth’s shadow and take on a reddish copper to deep-red tint. The eerie colors of totality seen during lunar eclipses frightened the ancients but delight us!

The last total lunar eclipse occurred Sept. 27-28, 2015. The next total lunar eclipse visible across North America will occur January 21, 2019.

The January 31 eclipse is the third in a series of supermoons in December 2017 and January 2018. Watch the Supermoon Trilogy video.

Too cloudy to see the total lunar eclipse? Try a webcast!

If local conditions don’t allow viewing tonight’s total lunar eclipse or if you just can’t get out, try one of the several live webcasts. Seeing the eclipse would be much better “in person,” but watching via computer or TV is better than nothing!

NASA TV — both a webcast and a cable TV service, the space agency’s coverage begins at 8:00 EDT through 11:30 PM. See it: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc or directly from Griffith Observatory at: http://livestream.com/GriffithObservatoryTV

Slooh, the remote telescope company, offers their own 9:00 PM webcast at: http://live.slooh.com/?utm_campaign=space&utm_medium=textlink&utm_source=launch which will also be carried by Space.com at: http://www.space.com/19195-night-sky-planets-asteroids-webcasts.html

The venerable “Sky & Telescope” magazine hosts a program beginning at 9:00 here: http://livestream.com/SkyandTelescope/Sept27eclipse

And the University of Arizona will stream their coverage live at: http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/css/eclipse/