Last night a large part of the world’s population was treated to a relatively rare variety of a not-so-rare night sky spectacle: a total lunar eclipse that happened to coincide with the closest perigee Moon (aka “supermoon”) of the year. The last time these scenarios lined up this way was in 1982, and it won’t occur exactly like that again until 2033. While some parts of the U.S. were clouded out (Los Angeles and Las Vegas included, oddly enough) it was a clear night here in Rhode Island and I took the opportunity to capture some photos of the eclipse from the State House lawn, where I could include the iconic statue of the “Independent Man” atop the capitol’s neoclassical dome.
See some photos of the eclipse from around the world on NASA’s Flickr album here, and check out a couple more of my photos below:
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.)
Totality — that brief period during a solar eclipse when the Moon is completely centered in front of the Sun’s disk — is a truly amazing sight, so much so that many people who have seen it once (a privileged group that doesn’t include me, sadly!) will travel across the globe in an effort witness it again and again.
During solar eclipse totality the sky not only becomes dark, dropping the temperature and sometimes even allowing stars to be seen, but also the Sun’s outer atmosphere is revealed around the silhouette of the Moon for a few short moments. Unfortunately this is not easily captured on camera because of the rapidly changing lighting situations, and when it is it pales in comparison to the real thing (or so I hear.)
The video above, taken during the November 14 eclipse from Queensland, shows the moments of totality pretty nicely although the streamer effect can’t really be made out. Still, we get a good idea of how the light changes and we can see another effect called “Baily’s Beads”, where sunlight peeks through some of the relief of the Moon’s terrain along its outer limb. Also the “diamond ring” effect can be seen as the Sun is uncovered.
Enjoy, and thanks to YouTube user solareclipse eclipsevidgvale for the upload!
Today, tens of thousands of people are gathering in northeastern Australia to witness one of the most amazing and dramatic astronomical events known: a total solar eclipse. At 2:39 p.m. EDT (19:39 UT) the Moon will begin to pass in front of the Sun for viewers around Cairns, Australia, leading up to a brief period of totality at 5:12 p.m. EDT (22:12 UT). At this time, the Sun will be completely blocked by the disk of the Moon, revealing the wispy strands of the Sun’s outer corona. It will be a spectacular view that’s possible at no other time, and will give scientists a chance to study some curious aspectsof the Sun’s atmosphere.
“On a scale of one to ten, a total solar eclipse is a MILLION.” – Fred Espenak, aka “Mr. Eclipse”
Yes, Mars gets eclipses too! This brief animation, made from ten raw subframe images acquired with Curiosity’s Mastcam show the silhouette of Mars’ moon Phobos (named after the Greek god of fear) as it slipped in front of the Sun’s limb on September 13 — aka the 37th “Sol” of the mission.
The animation spans an actual time of about 15 minutes.