It’s coming — on September 27 there will be a total lunar eclipse, the entirety of which will be visible across much of the western hemisphere! During total lunar eclipses the Moon passes through the shadow of Earth cast by the Sun, and is colored by dusky blue, purple, and crimson light as its normally harsh glare is briefly reduced to nearly nothing before the process reverses. It’s a beautiful cosmic event to behold and this year it’s an extra special treat — not only will the Moon be totally eclipsed but it will also be at perigee, the closest point to Earth along its 27.3-day-long orbit. These days when the Moon is full at perigee it gets called a “supermoon”, and on Sept. 27 it will be totally eclipsed during the closest supermoon of the entire year. That hasn’t happened since 1982, when The Clash was Rocking the Casbah, times were fast at Ridgemont High, and virtually no one knew what an Ewok was. (Yes, kids, it’s true.)
This month’s supermoon eclipse is also being called a “Blood Moon” because it’s the fourth and final total eclipse within the current lunar tetrad — a succession of four total eclipses with no partials in between, each separated by six months. Of course there’s a book written about it that makes portentous connections to ancient biblical texts (you can read more about that here) but you can rest assured that astronomers have nothing terribly important to report about this eclipse, other than the fact that patterns of orbital mechanics make it possible and, weather permitting, it should be really a cool thing to watch.
Personally I feel the best part about a total eclipse (the last of which I was able to observe fully in December of 2010) is how the Moon appears to “hang” in the night sky, surrounded by stars that are usually invisible through its bright glare. This is what I tried to capture in my photographs.
The “blood” moniker may come from the crimson coloration the full Moon takes on during an eclipse, or even for how it looks when low in the sky in the autumn because reasons.
As far as any physical affects on the Earth or Moon — or to you or anyone else — expected to happen because of the supermoon eclipse, there aren’t any (other than slightly higher tides along the coasts during the surrounding days.)
“There’s no physical difference in the Moon,” said Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “It just appears slightly bigger in the sky. It’s not dramatic, but it does look larger.” (Source)
The eclipse will begin almost imperceptibly at 8:11 p.m. ET on Sept. 27 (00:11 UTC 28 Sept) and will reach maximum totality at 10:47 p.m. ET (02:47 UTC). The entire event will end at 1:22 a.m. ET (05:22 UTC) on the 28th.
The next supermoon eclipse won’t happen until 2033, so this isn’t something you should miss if you can help it!
Watch the video below to learn more about the super-Blood Moon eclipse, and find out if and when the eclipse will be visible from your part of the world here.
Find a list of all the lunar eclipses up until 2100 here.