Enjoy A Berry Nice Lunar Eclipse On Monday Morning

Mmmm ... tasty. A chocolate-covered strawberry hints at Monday morning's lunar eclipse. Credit: Duluth News Tribune

I like my strawberries dipped in chocolate, but a Strawberry Moon dipped in Earth’s shadow sounds almost as tasty.

On Monday morning before sunrise, much of the U.S., Canada, Central and South America will see a partial eclipse as the moon glides silently into Earth’s shadow just two weeks after the recent solar eclipse.

As eclipses go, this one is very modest. Only 37% of the moon will be covered at maximum. How big of a nibble you see depends on where you live. The northeastern U.S. will have no eclipse at all, since the moon sets and sun rises before the event even begins.

Lunar eclipses only happen at full moon, when the moon is opposite the sun and passes into Earth's shadow. The outer shadow or penumbra is lighter because a portion of the sun still shines there. The sun is completely blocked by Earth from within the dark umbra a bit of light bent around Earth's rim.

Across much of the Midwest and South, the moon will set around sunrise while still in partial eclipse. Westerners will see the maximum of 37% covered and the start of the moon’s exit from Earth’s shadow.

Sky watchers in Anchorage, Hawaii, the Pacific and eastern Australia can watch the event from beginning to end.

Earlier this month, the new moon passed between the Earth and sun giving us a partial solar eclipse.

The path of the moon through Earth's shadow Monday morning before sunrise. Penumbral shading along the moon's lower left edge should be visible around 4:30 a.m. Credit: Tom Ruen with my own additions

Monday morning, the full moon will glide behind the Earth and into the planet’s shadow. The shadow has two parts – a milk chocolate outer layer called the penumbra and the dark chocolate central core or umbra.

Sunlight still filters into penumbra, so it’s not as dark as the umbra, but midway through it, the moon’s lower left edge – the side closest to the umbra – will appear lightly shadowed in gray, giving it a blunted appearance.

The first taste of real chocolate begins at 5 a.m. Central time. For where I live in Duluth, Minn. careful planning will be required. The partial eclipse begins only 24 minutes before moonset in bright twilight with the moon just 2.5 degrees high in the southwestern sky. You’ll need a wide open view and good weather to see it.

The eclipse from Duluth, Minn. and Kansas City shown shortly before sunrise for both cities. Kansas City's location further south and west will allow sky watchers there to see near the maximum covered before moonset. Duluthians will see a smaller percentage. Created with Stellarium.

While the moon’s low altitude can be a drawback, the bright side is you’ll have a great opportunity to photograph it lined up with a favorite landmark. That’s not only true in Duluth but in many areas of the country. Pick a spot in advance, grab tripod and camera and arrive early.

A similar partial lunar eclipse was visible from Duluth, Minn. on July 29, 1999. Photo: Bob King

In addition to the pleasing sight of Earth’s shadow taking a bite out of the moon, observers can watch the shadowed portion change color. Sunlight from countless sunrises and sunrises along the rim of Earth is bent by the atmosphere, spilling into the otherwise inky black umbra and tinting the moon smoky shades of orange, yellow and red.

Since the moon is near the horizon for many of us, it will also appear unusually large thanks to the “moon illusion”, a curious trick our brain and eyes play on us when observing celestial objects very low in the sky.

Coverage map for Monday's partial lunar eclipse. Credit: NASA

Our next lunar eclipse, a minor one with the moon passes only through the outer penumbra, occurs on the morning of November 28. That’s it for the Americas until 2014 when we’re blessed with total lunar eclipses on April 15 and October 8. For more details on Monday’s eclipse click HERE; for upcoming eclipses click HERE.

1 Response

  1. Richard Keen

    Hi Bob, there is an eclipse drought in 2013, but things then get amazing – there’s a series a FOUR total lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015, which is quite rare. Usually these series run for three eclipses at six-month intervals, followed by a two-year absence of total lunar eclipses. Even more amazingly, all four of these total lunar eclipses are visible from the US (although some locations will only see three of them).
    Then there’s the total solar eclipse in 2017.

Comments are closed.