Calling All Star Gazers: Two Special Lunar Events to Take Place Tonight!
New Year’s Eve is a big event for people across the globe. Parties happen, family gatherings are planned, and everyone looks forward to that final 10 countdown. Maybe you’ll find yourself watching the ball drop in Times Square, or perhaps you’re more likely to head out to the London Eye. Wherever you end up this year for New Years Eve, there is one amazing event you will not want to miss.
This particular night is special in two ways:
- There is a blue moon out tonight.
- A partial lunar eclipse is also expected to take place.
Before you run outside tonight, expecting the moon to change color, it may help you to know that the moon does not actually turn blue. A blue moon is simply the second full moon that occurs within the same month as a previous full moon. In this case, December had its first full moon phase on the 2nd day of the month and now another full moon phase takes place on the 31st day of the same month.
Blue moons do not happen very often, so if you’ve ever heard someone talk about doing something “once in a blue moon”, that’s where the phrase comes from. It basically means something that happens rarely or once in a great while, like a blue moon.
As for the eclipse, it would seem that North and South America are deprived of seeing yet another lunar eclipse. However, most of Asia, Africa and Europe will be able to view the partial eclipse with no problem (provided there is no cloud cover or storms taking place).
A partial lunar eclipse is different from a total eclipse in that the moon is not completely covered by the Earth’s shadow. Instead, the moon only brushes past the darkest part of the shadow, becoming a bit shaded and red in color. For those who will be able to actually witness the eclipse, here is a time frame for how it will play out:
The full moon will rise in the northeast during sunset. Around 6:17 pm local time tonight, the moon will begin to enter the Earth’s shadow. The moon will enter the umbra, or darkest part of the shadow, at 7:52 pm. The climax of the eclipse will occur at 8:23 pm and the moon will leave the umbra at 8:53. Any trace left of the shadow will be gone by 10:28 pm, so if you haven’t seen it by then, you are out of luck until the next lunar eclipse happens.
Some places, such as Australia, will have to make adjustments according to their local time zones. Australia, for example, may see the eclipse at dawn on January 1st, right before the moon sets. For those in the Americas who are disappointed that you will not be able to see the eclipse, there is always the option of viewing it through astronomy simulation programs like Starry Night.
At the very least, everyone across the globe will be able to see the blue moon, if nothing more. So, don’t forget to go out and look up tonight. And let’s hope to whatever good is out there that this next decade will be greener, eco-friendlier and more environmentally sound than the last.
By Heidi Marshall