On Sunday night, into Monday morning, January 20-21, 2019, a spectacular total lunar eclipse will occur over the Americas, Europe, western Africa and northernmost parts of Russia; a potential viewing audience of nearly 3 billion people. Weather permitting, totality will be particularly dramatic from North America, where January’s full Wolf Moon will glow an eerie coppery hue high in the dark and crisp winter sky.
What is a Total Lunar Eclipse?
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the Sun and Moon, and lines up precisely so that it blocks the Sun’s light, which otherwise reflects off the Moon.
There are three types of lunar eclipses: total, partial, and penumbral, with the most dramatic being a total lunar eclipse—when the Earth’s shadow totally covers the Moon. A lunar eclipse can occur only when there is a full Moon: January’s Wolf Moon turns 100% full on the 21st at 12:16 a.m. EST.
How Long Will The Total Lunar Eclipse Last?
Totality will last a bit longer than average: 1 hour and 2 minutes. The eclipse will actually begin when the Moon enters the faint outer portion (called the penumbra) of the Earth’s shadow about an hour before it begins moving into the umbra. The penumbra, however, is all but invisible to the eye until the Moon becomes deeply immersed in it. Sharp-eyed viewers may get their first glimpse of the penumbra as a faint “smudge” on the left part of the Moon’s disk about a half hour after it first enters the penumbral shadow.
The most noticeable part of this lunar eclipse will come when the Moon begins to enter the Earth’s dark inner shadow (called the umbra). A small scallop of darkness will begin to appear on the Moon’s left edge shortly after it has begun to enter the umbra.
The Moon is expected to take 3 hours and 17 minutes to pass completely through the umbra.
An Eerie Sight in Hawaii
Eclipse watchers from the Hawaiian Islands will see a different—but still stirring—spectacle: the eclipse will already be in progress when the Moon rises at sunset, with roughly half of the Moon already immersed in shadow. As evening twilight deepens and the Moon gradually becomes more and more immersed in the Earth’s shadow, it will become transformed into a ruddy, ghostly orb.
A Blood Wolf Moon?
During a lunar eclipse, the Moon can sometimes turn red. The light reaching the Moon resembles the “color of blood,” and is sometimes called a “Blood Moon.” but there is no way of predicting this in advance. But when it does occur, the explanation is simple:
“During a total lunar eclipse, white sunlight hitting the atmosphere on the sides of the Earth gets absorbed and then radiated out (scattered). Blue-colored light is most affected,” NASA officials wrote online. “That is, the atmosphere filters out (scatters away) most of the blue-colored light. What’s left over is the orange- and red-colored light.”
We wish you all good luck and clear skies!
January 20-21 Total Lunar Eclipse Timetable (in Eastern Time)
Moon Enters Penumbra – 9:36 p.m.
Moon Enters Umbra- 10:34 p.m.
Total Eclipse Begins – 11:41 p.m.
Mid-Eclipse – 12:13 a.m. (Jan. 21)
Total Eclipse Ends – 12:43 a.m.
Moon Leaves Umbra – 1:51 a.m.
Moon Leaves Penumbra – 2:48 a.m.