© John Buonomo, North Billerica, MA.

Total lunar eclipse

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Eclipses feed

A simulation of how the eclipse will appear from Ashburn.
Time:       Altitude: °      Azimuth: °
The outer grey circle is the Earth's penumbra, and the inner black circle is the umbra. Any part of the Moon which passes within the black circle will be unilluminated, while any part within the grey circle will appear less bright than usual.

The Moon will pass through the Earth's shadow between 20:44 and 00:09 EST, creating a total lunar eclipse. The eclipse will be visible any location where the Moon is above the horizon at the time, including from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe.

It will be visible from Ashburn in the south-eastern sky. The Moon will lie 51° above the horizon at the midpoint of the eclipse.

The total eclipse will last from 22:02 until 22:51. The Moon will be partially eclipsed between 20:44 and 00:09 (all times given in Ashburn time).

Eclipses of the Moon are easy to watch with the unaided eye. A modest pair of binoculars will give a superb view of the Moon's surface, but are not required. Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are entirely safe to look at without the need to look through any kind of filter.

They occur whenever the Earth passes between the Moon and Sun, such that it obscures the Sun's light and casts a shadow onto the Moon's surface. The circular shadow cast by the Earth appears as a bite taken out of the Moon during its partial phases.

When the Moon's disk lies entirely in shadow, it often takes on a spectacular reddy-brown color, as some of the Sun's red light is bent around the edge of the Earth's globe by its atmosphere.

Sequence of events

The eclipse will begin at 19:37, when the Moon first enters a region of the Earth's shadow called the penumbra. In this outer part of the Earth's shadow, an observer on the Moon would see the Sun partially obscuring the Sun's disk, but not completely covering it. As a result the Moon's brightness will begin to dim, as it is less strongly illuminated by the Sun, but it remains illuminated.

At 20:44, the edge of the Moon's disk will enter the Earth's umbra. This is the region of space in which an observer on the Moon's surface would see the Earth completely obscuring the whole of the Sun's disk, and would find themselves suddenly thrust into darkness.

As an increasing fraction of the Moon's face creeps into the Earth's umbra, it will appear to have a growing bite taken out of it. We will see our planet's circular shadow sweep across the face of the Moon.

Eventually the Moon will pass entirely within the Earth's umbra at 22:02, and the total eclipse will begin.

The table below lists the times when each part of the eclipse will begin and end.

19:3700:37Moon begins to enter the Earth's penumbra
20:4401:44Moon begins to enters the Earth's umbra. Partial eclipse begins.
22:0203:02Moon fully within Earth's umbra. Total eclipse begins.
22:2703:27Midpoint of eclipse
22:5103:51Moon begins to leave the Earth's umbra. Total eclipse ends.
00:0905:09Moon fully outside the Earth's umbra. Partial eclipse ends.
01:1606:16Moon leaves the Earth's penumbra
The geometry of a lunar eclipse
The geometry of a lunar eclipse. Within the penumbra, the Earth covers some fraction of the Sun's disk, but not all of it. In the umbra, the Earth covers the entirity of the Sun's disk. Any parts of the Moon's surface that lie within the Earth's umbra will appear unilluminated. Image courtesy of F. Sogumo.

Visibility of the eclipse

Eclipses of the Moon are visible anywhere where the Moon is above the horizon at the time. Since the geometry of lunar eclipses requires that the Moon is directly opposite the Sun in the sky, the Moon can be seen above the horizon anywhere where the Sun is beneath the horizon. The map below shows where the eclipse of February 20 will be visible.

Map of where the eclipse of February 2008 will be visible.
Map of where the eclipse of February 2008 will be visible. Click here to expand.

Further information

This eclipse is a member of Saros series 133. The exact position of the Moon at the midpoint of the eclipse is as follows:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Angular Size
The Moon 10h14m +10°29' Leo 31'07"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 17 December 2018
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

10-day old moon
Waxing Gibbous


10 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 05:37 10:36 15:34
Venus 03:36 08:59 14:23
Moon 13:45 20:04 01:22
Mars 12:00 17:49 23:37
Jupiter 06:01 10:52 15:42
Saturn 08:21 13:05 17:50
All times shown in EST.


Espanak, F., & Meeus, J., Five Millennium Canon of Lunar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000, NASA Technical Publication TP-2009-214172 (2009)

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Related news

13 Feb 2008, 22:35 EST  –  Moon at First Quarter
20 Feb 2008, 22:32 EST  –  Full Moon
28 Feb 2008, 21:20 EST  –  Moon at Last Quarter
07 Mar 2008, 12:15 EST  –  New Moon

Image credit

© John Buonomo, North Billerica, MA.




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