The closer the eclipse time comes the more sky-watchers are concerned about the weather. If you haven’t heard there’s a total lunar eclipse Sunday night (Jan. 20) visible across the Americas, parts of Europe and Africa and the Arctic. At the moment, good chunks of the Eastern Seaboard and the southern United States look clear to partly cloudy at the time of the eclipse. Conditions are iffier across the Upper Midwest. I’ve found this interactive cloud forecast map helpful. You may too.
To use it, just hover your mouse cursor over Day 1 and slowly slide to the right to Day 2, Day 3 and so on. Don’t press or drag. As you glide, you’ll see the cloud cover change on the map along with the time (Eastern) after the date at right. Subtract an hour for Central Time; 2 for Mountain and 3 for Pacific. For today and tomorrow, sky conditions are shown every 3 hours.
It doesn’t have to be perfectly clear to see a lunar eclipse. Partly cloudy will do. Totality lasts about an hour, so if conditions aren’t great at the beginning, check again later. Another useful tool for determining cloud cover is Attilla Danko’s ClearDarkSky. Lots of amateur astronomers use the site, which can be surprisingly accurate, to check hour-by-hour cloud cover at a glance.
Click on the link and then type in the name of your city or the nearest large city. You should get a list of one or more locations with cloud forecasts. Click one, and you’ll see a series of blocks colored from white to dark blue for each hour. The deeper the color, the greater percentage of clear sky. Click on a block and a map pops ups showing the estimated cloud cover for that hour for your region. If your city is cloudy, go back and find other nearby locations with “more blue” at the right time. An easy way to do this is to click on the map link, then you can select sites on a map with a single click and find the nearest place with clear skies. An excellent resource!
If bad weather makes it impossible to see the eclipse or you live in the no-eclipse zone, you can watch it via live stream at Gianluca Masi’s Virtual Telescope Project, Timeanddate.com and SLOOH. One way or another you’re going to see this eclipse 🙂 Good luck!