BOSTON (CBS) — Huge “heads up” for Sunday night… we have the opportunity to see a total lunar eclipse. In fact, the entire eastern half of the US will be in the “path of totality,” providing a great show. The biggest caveat — the weather HAS to cooperate.
So what is an eclipse and how frequent is it?
An eclipse is when one celestial body is darkened by another’s shadow. Lunar eclipses occur when the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow created by Earth. Partial lunar eclipses are fairly common, but total eclipses are a bit hard to come by. This one is lining up perfectly for the Northeast. For us, this is our first chance to see a lunar eclipse since January 2019.
Solar eclipses are the opposite. They occur when the Moon blocks the Sun and are pretty rare! But don’t fret… the next total solar eclipse will track right through the United States in April 2024, including totality in parts of New England!
OK, back to lunar eclipses…
Sunday’s lunar eclipse will happen in phases. First, the Moon will enter the penumbra around 10:10 p.m. That’s the outer shadow cast by Earth. This really isn’t all that exciting, but it’s the start of the main event.
The real show starts when the moon enters the true shadow of the Earth, called the umbra. The lower-left corner of the Moon will start to darken around 10:28 p.m. This is the beginning of a three-and-a-half-hour journey the Moon takes through the Earth’s shadow.
The next stop — totality! For 85 minutes, starting at 11:28 p.m., the Moon will be fully covered by the Earth’s shadow. The Moon won’t completely disappear, however. Instead, it turns a coppery-red color because of refracting sunlight around the Earth.
The Moon exits the shadow at 1:55 a.m. Monday, and the show ends at 2:12 a.m. when it leaves the penumbra.
So will the weather cooperate enough for us to see it? That’s the million-dollar question!
Clouds will be on the increase Sunday night and temperatures will be mild. I’m optimistic that with partly cloudy skies, at least some of the celestial show will partially visible.
If clouds do ruin our show, don’t worry! The next lunar eclipse is the early hours of November 8th. Set the countdown clock now.