Get ready to gaze skyward at a bunch of eclipse activity in 2019, starting with a great show for much of the world with the calendar year’s first big event – a total lunar eclipse over Jan. 20/21.
A total lunar eclipse takes place when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon and covers the Moon with its shadow. Total eclipses of the Moon happen at Full Moon when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned. The astronomical term for this type of alignment is “syzygy,” which comes from the Greek word for “being paired together.”
The show gets started slowly at 9:36 p.m. EST on Sunday, Jan. 20, according to timeanddate.com, which adds “Lunar eclipses can be visible from everywhere on the night side of the Earth if the sky is clear. From some places, the entire eclipse will be visible, while in other areas the Moon will rise or set during the eclipse.”
The full eclipse begins, from the USA’s vantage point, at 11:41 p.m. EST Jan. 20 and ends 12:43 a.m. Jan. 21.
The duration of the full eclipse is 1 hour, 2 minutes. (The longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century took place July 27, 2018, when the full show lasted 1 hour, 43 minutes.)
The total duration of the Jan. 20-21 eclipse next month will be 5 hours, 12 minutes.
And don’t forget, unlike its counterpart, the solar eclipse, lunar eclipses pose no threat to eyeballs during viewing. Looking at a total eclipse of the Moon requires nothing more than a clear view of the sky, clothes to keep warm during the late-January event, and maybe a chair for the hour-plus show.
The total phase of this total lunar eclipse will be visible from North and South America, as well as western parts of Europe and Africa. Central and eastern Africa, Europe and Asia will be able to see only a partial eclipse of the Moon.
One of the highlights of a total lunar eclipse is the familiar red hue on the Moon, which of course doesn’t have its light but shines because its surface reflects the Sun’s rays. During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth comes between the Sun and Moon and blocks any direct sunlight from reaching the Moon. The Sun casts the Earth’s shadow on the Moon’s surface, which can turn red, earning it the nickname “Blood Moon.”
Color is one of the more unique products of a total lunar eclipse.
“The blue skies during the day are a result of Earth’s nitrogen-rich atmosphere, which takes white sunlight, a mixture of all colors of the spectrum, and scatters around the blue colors,” according to Business Insider. “Around sunset and sunrise, the light reaching our eyes has been more thoroughly scattered, so much that blues are nearly absent. This makes the Sun and its light appear more orange or even red.”
Even more interesting would be the event’s other perspective.
“If you were standing on the Moon’s surface during a lunar eclipse,” David Diner, a senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, examined in a 2010 report, “you would see the Sun setting and rising behind the Earth, and you’d observe the refracted and scattered solar rays as they pass through the atmosphere surrounding our planet.”
Even when the show passes next month, another is always around the corner.
“An eclipse never comes alone!” Timeanddate.com reminds. “A solar eclipse always occurs about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse. Usually, there are two eclipses in a row, but other times, there are three during the same eclipse season. This is the second eclipse this season. First eclipse this season: Jan. 5–6, 2019 — Partial Solar Eclipse.”
The next total lunar eclipse will be May 26, 2021.
ECLIPSES IN 2019
Jan. 5-6: Partial Solar Eclipse (visible in East Asia, Pacific)
Jan. 20-21: Total Lunar Eclipse (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Arctic)
July 2: Total Solar Eclipse (southern North America, much of South America, Pacific)
July 16-17: Partial Lunar Eclipse (much of Europe, much of Asia, Australia, Africa, southern/eastern North America, South America, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Antarctica)
Nov. 11: Transit [Mercury] (southern/western Europe, southern/western Asia, Africa, much of North America, South America, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Antarctica)
Dec. 26: Solar Eclipse [Annular] (eastern Europe, much of Asia, northern/western Australia, eastern Africa, Pacific, Indian Ocean)