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We entered 2017 with a nice pairing of the planets of love and war in the sky. Venus and Mars were close together all through January. The Moon was right there too as the year began and it will work its way back to the planets – at least in our view – as the month ends January 31.

But the major astronomical event of 2017 will be a total solar eclipse. We have not had a total solar eclipse in the mainland U.S. since 1979.

It is two seasons away, but on August 21, 2017 the Moon will completely block the sun, and this solar eclipse can be seen across the United States.

But, you will have to be at the right place at the right time to see totality (when the sun is totally blocked by the moon). There is an area that is a narrow path about 75 miles wide between Oregon and South Carolina that will be prime viewing. You can view a detailed map of the eclipse online.  Perhaps, you should plan now for a little vacation in August to see the eclipse.

If that’s too far off to think about, or if you’re not ready to take an eclipse vacation, then here’s an alternative. On February 11, we will have a penumbral lunar eclipse. This is when the Moon enters the lighter shadow of the earth. But the effect is hard to notice and a lot less cool than the August event.

A total penumbral lunar eclipse dims the moon in direct proportion to the area of the Sun's disk blocked by the Earth. This comparison shows the southern shadow penumbral lunar eclipse of January 1999 (left) to the moon outside of the shadow (right) demonstrates this subtle dimming.

A total penumbral lunar eclipse dims the moon in direct proportion to the area of the Sun’s disk blocked by the Earth. This comparison shows the southern shadow penumbral lunar eclipse of January 1999 (left) to the moon outside of the shadow (right) demonstrates this subtle dimming.  Image via Wikipedia

 

 

If you’re in North America and the Pacific, you may be able to see a very subtle partial penumbral eclipse of the Moon on the morning of March 23, 2016.  Western North America has the eclipse taking place in its sky from start to finish. Look for the eclipse shortly before dawn breaks.

The Moon will look full tonight but it still is a waxing gibbous moon until it “officially” is full on March 23 at 12:01 Universal Time (8:01 a.m. EDT).

There are many names for the monthly Full Moons. I try to choose a new one each year and this time I selected the Earth Cracks Moon. That sounds rather ominous, but it only refers to the heaving soil as we transition into spring with cold nights and warm days. Another name – the Full Worm Moon – also refers to the thawing ground and the earthworm casts that can appear, which delights the robins.

Those names and the Full Crust Moon are all more common with Indian tribes than with the European settlers, though in northern climes all parties would have observed both natural occurrences. To the settlers, it was known by names such as the Lenten Moon and Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees.

Some northern tribes knew this as the Full Crow Moon, because the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter, but look at all the names I have uncovered for this winter-into-spring Full Moon:  Fish Moon, Medieval Chaste Moon, (Choctaw) Big Famine Moon,  (Cherokee) Windy Moon,  (Dakotah Sioux) Moon When Eyes Are Sore from Bright Snow, (Celtic) Moon of the Winds, Oak Moon, Storm Moon, Seed Moon, Maple Moon, Chaste Moon, Strong Wind Moon, Moon of Wakening, Light Snow Moon, Flower Time Moon, Cactus Blossom Moon, Rust Moon, Spring Moon, Whispering Wind Moon, Windy Moon, Death Moon, Sleepy Moon, and Big Famine Moon.

The first eclipse of 2014 is a good one for observers throughout the Western Hemisphere and especially for the Americas.

On Tuesday, April 15, there will be a total lunar eclipse that will turn the moon a coppery red, according to NASA. It’s called a blood moon, and it’s one of four total eclipses that will take place in North America within the next 18 months.  Within a year and a half, North America will be able to see a blood moon a total of four times. The moon takes on this color during the eclipse as it passes through the Earth’s shadow, which is the color of a desert sunset.  The four blood moons will occur in roughly six-month intervals on the following dates: April 15, 2014; October 8, 2014; April 4, 2015, and September 28, 2015.

During totality, the spring constellations are well placed for viewing so a number of bright stars can be used for magnitude comparisons. The entire event is visible from both North and South America. Observers in the western Pacific miss the first half of the eclipse because it occurs before moonrise. Likewise most of Europe and Africa experience moonset just as the eclipse begins. None of the eclipse is visible from north/east Europe, eastern Africa, the Middle East or Central Asia.

Lunar eclipses can be penumbral, partial or umbral but don’t occur with any regular schedule like many other astronomical events.  Getting four umbral eclipses in a row is rare and is known as a tetrad. We are lucky in the U.S. that this 2014-2015 tetrad will be visible for all or parts of the country.

In the 21st century, there will be many tetrads, but look back a few centuries, and you’ll find the opposite phenomenon. We had gone through a 300-year period when there were none.  That means that Sir Isaac Newton, Mozart, George Washington, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln nor their contemporaries ever had a chance to see one.

So, get out there and take a look.  You’ll need to be up at 2 a.m. ET Tuesday to see the moon starts to enter the Earth’s shadow. The “”blood moon” coppery red should occur about an hour later and stay that way for over an hour.

This particular blood moon comes right at the Jewish festival of Passover, which commemorates the ancient Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. According to the Bible, God cast 10 plagues upon the Egyptians, the final plague being the death of the firstborn. Not that this eclipse has anything to do with the Biblical story, but it is an interesting coincidence that the Israelites painted lamb’s blood on their doorways so that this plague would pass over their homes.

The times of the major eclipse phases:

Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 04:53:37 UT
Partial Eclipse Begins: 05:58:19 UT
Total Eclipse Begins: 07:06:47 UT
Greatest Eclipse: 07:45:40 UT
Total Eclipse Ends: 08:24:35 UT
Partial Eclipse Ends: 09:33:04 UT
Penumbral Eclipse Ends: 10:37:37 UT

 

A total solar eclipse will take place on 13–14 November 2012.

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partially obscuring the image of the Sun for a viewer on Earth. A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s apparent diameter is larger than the Sun, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness. Totality occurs in a narrow path across the surface of the Earth, while a partial solar eclipse will be visible over a region thousands of kilometres wide.  also a new moon that night

The eclipse totality will be visible from northern Australia and the southern Pacific Ocean. The most populous city to experience totality will be Cairns, which will experience 2 minutes of totality just an hour after daybreak (06:38 AEST, 20:38 UTC) with the sun at an altitude of just 14°.

Parts of northern New Zealand including Auckland will experience a partial eclipse with over 80% of the sun obscured. Christchurch and points north will see at least 60% of the sun obscured. Maximum eclipse over New Zealand will occur around 10:30 NZDT (21:30 UTC).

Parts of central Chile, specifically the Los Ríos and Los Lagos regions from Valdivia (63% obscured) south to Quellón (54% obscured) will see a partial eclipse with over half the sun obscured at sunset, over the coast. Points north up to about Santiago will see the eclipse begin as the sun is setting.

Tomorrow, December 10, 2011, will be the last eclipse of the moon for this year. It’s a total eclipse.

It will be seen from Alaska, northern Canada, Australia, New Zealand, central Asia and eastern Asia. Viewers in most of North America and Hawaii will see the moonset still in eclipse. The best place to view it will be Central and eastern Asia.

In Paradelle and other spots on the east coast, you will not see the start of the umbral eclipse before moonset.

People on the west coast of the United States and Canada will see the beginning of totality just as the moon disappears below the western horizon. Though they won’t see the full lunar eclipse (the moon will be setting Saturday morning as the eclipse is occurring) but when it’s low on the horizon, it can appear significantly larger than when it’s high in the sky. So, the reddening moon could be quite a sight. (The color comes from the way light scatters in the atmosphere.) Check it out from about 4:45 a.m. PST.

I won’t be able to view this one live, so my next chance is will be overnight April 14 and 15, 2014. That one will be visible all through its phases throughout the Americas.

Photo by Jim Fakatselis via spaceweather.com

Between my solstice post this past weekend and my Full Moon post tomorrow, I want to insert this brief post noting that there is also a lunar eclipse for the solstice. The Earth’s shadow will move across the moon’s surface early Tuesday morning (starting at 1:33 a.m. ET and lasting 3 hours and 33 minutes with totality at 2:41) and it will be the first time in 372 years that a lunar eclipse coincided with the winter solstice.

Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory searched back 2000 years and only found one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is December 21, 1638.  I wonder how the Druids reacted to that one. Add to this the Full Moon occuring too and you really have an interesting crossing of lines.

This lunar eclipse will be visible from four continents. The best views should be from North America and Central America. Unlike a solar eclipse, eclipses of the moon can usually be observed anywhere in the hemisphere where the moon is above the horizon. According to Space.com, this eclipse may be seen in totality from northern and western Europe, some of northeast Asia, Hawaii and New Zealand.

And it’s visible with just your eyes (though a binoculars will get you a nice closeup.

When the full Moon passes almost dead-center through Earth’s shadow, there will be 72 minutes of “totality”, and an amber light will dramatically create on any snowy areas an eerie light show.

If you miss this one, the next one will be on December 21, 2094.

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