Early on Election Day morning, early risers will have the opportunity to observe the November Castor Moon undergo a total eclipse.
This will be the fourth and final lunar eclipse that comes with interesting six-month intervals, starting from May of last year to this year. Three of these eclipses in this series are total. One of them – the lunar eclipse last November 19 – was partial, but just barely. all but about two percent of the moon was immersed in Earth’s dark umbra (the darkest, innermost part of a shadow). Had last November’s eclipse been recorded as total, it would have resulted in four totalities spanning 2021 and 2022: a cycle known as a lunar eclipse tetrad.
What’s coming our way next Tuesday morning favors the western half of North America and the Hawaiian Islands (where the moon will appear almost directly overhead in the middle of the eclipse). Along the Atlantic coast, the moon will set as it begins to rise from the total eclipse. For central and eastern Asia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia, the eclipse will take place on Tuesday afternoon as the moon rises.
Related: Lunar eclipses 2022: When, where and how to see them
In all, Space.com estimates that 2.7 billion people will have the opportunity – weather permitting – to enjoy the best part of this lunar show. In other parts of the world, either only the partial stages of the eclipse will be visible, or the eclipse will occur when it is daytime and the moon is not above their local horizon.
This map and accompanying chart (opens in new tab) depicting the moon’s path through Earth’s shadow courtesy of Eclipsewise.com. The schedule below tells what to expect at your location and when. The dashes show that the moon has set and is below the horizon.
|Penumbra seen for the first time?||3:48 am||2:48 am||1:48 am||12:48 am|
|The Moon enters the umbra||4:08 am||3:08 am||2:08 am||1:08 am|
|The total eclipse begins||5:16 am||4:16 am||3:16 am||2:16 am|
|Average eclipse||5:59 am||4:59 am||3:59 am||2:59 am|
|The total eclipse ends||6:41 am||5:41 am||4:41 am||2:41 am|
|The moon leaves umbra||—-||—-||5:49 am||4:49 am|
|Penumbra last seen?||—-||—-||6:09 am||5:09 am|
Stages of the Eclipse
A total lunar eclipse has five stages, with different things to look out for in each one.
The first dark stage begins when the leading edge of the moon enters the pale outer edge of Earth’s shadow, called the hemisphere. But the shadowing is so weak that most people won’t notice anything until about 70% of the lunar disk sinks into the hemisphere. or about 20 minutes before first contact with the much darker shade. Some people with extremely sharp vision can detect the crescent moon when the moon has penetrated about half the length of the hemisphere, or about 30 minutes before it first touches the umbrella. Watch for a faint dimming to become apparent on the upper left side of the moon. The shading (or “smudge”) grows stronger as the minutes pass and the moon sets deeper.
The second stage is the partial eclipse. This begins much more dramatically when the moon’s leading (left) edge enters the umbra, Earth’s inner shadow, where direct sunlight does not reach. With a telescope, you can watch the tip of the umbrella slowly gobble up craters, mountains, and lunar maria (the darkest plains on the moon’s surface) as your local night sky slowly and progressively darkens. Note the Pleiades star cluster, which will be high above the moon, and will become more prominent as the eclipse progresses.
A little more than an hour after the partial eclipse, only one last bright sliver of the moon remains outside the umbra. And the rest of the moon is likely to show an eerie reddish/copper glow. The contrast in both light and color has led some to refer to it as the “Japanese lantern effect”.
Next comes the third stage: the total eclipse, which begins when the last lip of the moon slips into the umbra. Although the sun here is completely hidden, the moon is likely to glow some shade of red or orange. These hues are caused by sunlight passing and bending through the Earth’s atmosphere: it is the combined light of all the sunrises and sunsets that hit our world at any given time. If an astronaut stood on the moon, he would see the sun completely hidden and the dark disk of Earth (which appears almost four times larger than the moon to us) surrounded by a thin ring of red or orange light. And this light, in turn, falls on the surrounding lunar landscape.
Light or dark?
On rare occasions, such as in 1963 and 1992, the total lunar eclipse turns almost black. In other cases, like 1967 and 2003, it can look as bright as a new penny. Sometimes, instead of a characteristic red or orange, it turns brown and looks more like the color of a milk chocolate bar.
Two factors determine the brightness and color of the moon during totality. The first is how deep into the umbra the moon penetrates. the center of the umbrella is much darker than its edges. For this upcoming eclipse, the moon will track north of the center of the umbra. In the middle of the eclipse, the lower edge of the moon will graze exactly the center of the umbra, but its upper edge will be hidden about 780 miles (1,250 kilometers) inside the outer edge of the umbra. So the top of the moon’s disc should appear distinctly brighter than the bottom.
The other factor is the state of the Earth’s atmosphere along the sunrise-sunset line. If the air is very clear, the eclipse is bright. But if a large volcanic eruption has recently contaminated the atmosphere with an aerosol cloud or a fine global haze, the eclipse will be gray or almost black. Volcano Agung in Indonesia in 1963 and Volcano Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 were the main reasons for the lunar eclipses that followed their eruptions because they were so dark.
In addition, blue light refracted by Earth’s clear, ozone-rich upper atmosphere can also add to the scene, especially near the edge of the umbra.
He emerges from the shadows
As was the case last May, the set will run an unusually long 85 minutes. And then, as the moon continues east along its path, the events repeat themselves in reverse order. The tip of the moon reappears in sunlight, ending totality and beginning stage four: partial eclipse again.
When the full moon escapes the crescent, only the last shadow remains for the fifth stage. This final twilight slowly fades away, leaving the brilliant mid-autumn full moon to resume its normal appearance.
Look for Heaven too!
By a random coincidence, the +5.6 magnitude planet Uranus will appear less than 2 degrees to the upper left of the moon during totality. Locate it with your binoculars or telescope by first taking a look at the yellow-white star HIP 13448 of magnitude +6.3, which will appear in total about one degree to the upper left of the moon. Then continue a similar distance in the same direction until you reach another “star” that appears about twice as bright as HIP 13448. Only this won’t be a star, but the sixth planet outside the sun. Can you see anything of the blue-green hue of the Sky? The contrast with the orange-red moon can make this color stand out a bit more.
And for some random locations: northwestern North America, Asia, Japan, and arctic regions, the moon will actually hide Uranus.
In a telescope, Uranus is a tiny disk 3.7 arcseconds across. It is 1.74 billion miles (2.8 billion km) from Earth compared to the Moon’s 240,000 miles (387,000 km).
Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer in New York Hayden Planetarium (opens in new tab). He writes about astronomy for Journal of Natural History (opens in new tab)The Rural Almanac (opens in new tab) and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) and up Facebook (opens in new tab).
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