The end of this month will feature an eclipse that is sure to impress! Go out and look up! I’ll have more updates on this as we get closer to time. For now, I wanted to let readers know what is coming and to be sure and mark their calendars!
On the night of January 20th, everything will come together for a total lunar eclipse here on the plateau! Total lunar eclipses can only occur during a full moon, with the sun, earth, and moon lining up perfectly. Any misalignment of the three will only produce a partial eclipse.
Lunar eclipses are less frequent than solar eclipses, but they cover more territory. A total solar eclipse may only cover a 50-mile wide path across the earth, while a lunar eclipse is visible over entire continents.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth passes between the moon and the sun. This year’s eclipse is also a super moon, meaning the moon will appear slightly larger than normal due to its orbit bringing it slightly closer to earth.
Many folks mistakenly believe that the moon’s phases are determined by earth’s shadow on the moon. The moon’s phase is determined by the amount of the moon’s illuminated surface facing the earth. For instance, during a full moon the fully lit surface of the moon faces earth.
Earth’s shadow causes eclipses. As the earth blocks the sun’s light from reaching the moon during the lunar eclipse, the only light that will be able to reach the moon will have to pass through earth’s atmosphere. Dust and water vapor cause that reflection to cast a reddish shadow onto the moon’s surface.
The moon is moving away from the earth at a rate of about 1.6 inches a year. Right now, the shadow of the earth fits perfectly over the moon at a certain time each year. Billions of years from now the moon will be too far away for a total eclipse.
January’s total eclipse will begin at 10:41 p.m. and will last about an hour. Let’s just hope the weather cooperates!