Thursday, February 2, 2017

EXPLORING THE NIAGARA FRONTIER: Next week’s sort-of lunar eclipse

The very mention of an eclipse brings a sense of excitement to any skywatcher. Eclipses are not only uncommon, but there’s something eerie in a celestial body disappearing.

Next week, Western New Yorkers will be blessed with a lunar eclipse.

Well, sort of.

It won’t be a dramatic disappearing act with the full moon going completely dark or becoming blood red. Instead, it’s more subtle. The moon will become a little ashen and grey. Some folks, especially in cloudy areas, won’t notice any decline in the moon’s glow.

This type of eclipse is a penumbral lunar eclipse. It occurs when moon passes through the Earth's
penumbra, which is the widest part of the shadow cast by the Earth. The more familiar and frightening umbral lunar eclipses happen when the moon is shaded by the darkest, narrowest part of Earth’s shadow.

So, in the case of next week’s stellar event, the moon is only having a brush with darkness as it will still be exposed to much of the sun’s glow. We won’t be blotting out the sun entirely, just lessening it.

Mother Nature can be such a tease…we’ll be so close to the event having become a total lunar eclipse. How close? The moon will be only 100 miles from our umbra!

Next week’s eclipse will take place on Feb. 10. It will begin at 5:34 p.m. and the event will reach its peak at 7:43 p.m. The whole shebang will be finished by 9:53 p.m.

Even though this will be a dud by total lunar eclipse standards, get out and marvel at the rarity with your family. This will be the only lunar eclipse that we will see in WNY this year and in 2018 for that matter.

But, despite that bad news, come August of this year we will be subject to an awesome and highly-anticipated solar eclipse.

That’s a story for another day.

From the 02 February 2017 All WNY News

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