The on-going September “supermoon” orbiting the earth has already drawn a lot of attention this month. Right now, the moon is the closest it will ever get to the planet, allowing us Earthlings to get an up close and personal view. At the end of the month the moon is expected to block out the sun, creating a massive lunar eclipse, most likely the biggest one seen in at least 18 years.
Luckily, just about everyone across the Americas, Europe, Africa, Western Asia and the eastern Pacific Ocean will be able to catch a glimpse of the blood moon. The eclipse will occur on either September 27 or 28th, depending on your exact location. In the United States the blood moon will appear Sunday night, and will begin to dim at about 8:11 p.m., reaching a full eclipse two hours later at 10:11 p.m. The eclipse will last for about 72 minutes.
Whether or not you will be able to catch a glimpse of the moon will depend on if the skies are clear. Right now, it’s far too early to project which areas will have clear skies. The moon is so big that you won’t have to escape light pollution to see the eclipse, but if you can get away from city lights, it certainly won’t hurt. Also, binoculars and telescopes will help you get a better view, but aren’t necessary.
To be clear, lunar eclipses differ from solar eclipses in that the sun is not blocked out, but instead the moon falls into the Earth’s shadow. In order for a lunar eclipse to occur, the sun, Earth, and moon must be in near perfect alignment. The moon will still be visible during the eclipse, but it will be darkened and turned “blood red.” This is due to the fact that most sunlight will be blocked from hitting the moon’s surface.
Lunar eclipses aren’t all too uncommon, and several are usually reported around the world each year. Many of the eclipses are partial or penumbral. More than a dozen full eclipses have occurred since the turn of the millennium, but the upcoming eclipse on the 28th stands to be one of the longest and largest on record.
On September 27th the moon is expected to take up much of the view of our sky, becoming a massive supermoon. Further, as the eclipse occurs moon will start to turn blood red as all of the Earth’s sunsets will literally be reflected off the face of the moon.
If you’re looking to get a good look at the surface of the moon, September 27th will be the perfect day to do so, assuming the skies are clear. Even a pair of small binoculars should be enough to see many of the details of the moon’s surface.
The next total lunar of the “super” variety won’t occur until 2033, according to scientists. Due to the regular movement of planetary bodies, scientists are able to accurately plot such events, so if you’re looking to see a blood red moon up close and personal, make sure you set aside some time.
A partial solar eclipse was observed this month on the 13th, but was only visible in Southern Africa and the Antarctic. A total solar eclipse will occur on March 8th and 9th in 2016 and will be visible across much of Asia, Australia, and Alaska. Next September, on the 1st, another solar eclipse will be observed through most of Africa.