WASHINGTON, DC – One of 2019’s top astronomy events is coming right up tonight, January 20th , into the morning of the 21st with a total lunar eclipse that will be seen mainly in the Americas as well as some other regions of the Old World, Universe Today reports.
The coming eclipse is billed as a “supermoon eclipse” since the moon reaches perigee or its closest point to the earth at 357,344 km distant on January 21st at 19:59 UTC, about 14 hours after mid-eclipse.
But this isn’t the closest Full Moon of 2019 in time or space. The February 19th Full Moon beats it out by over 500 km and eight hours.
The umbral shadow phases for the eclipse span over three hours in duration and totality lasts for just an hour and two minutes long. Both the Americas will see the eclipse in its entirety late in the evening.
However, western Europe and several Muslim countries in northwestern Africa will see the eclipse in progress at local sunrise and moonset. The western Pacific region will see the eclipse ongoing at moonrise.
Before Islam, people used to associate this unusual phenomenon with some superstitious reasons. It happened that the sun eclipsed on the day the Prophet’s son Ibrahim died in Madinah, so some people attributed that to his death.
Hence, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) took the opportunity to correct the people’s mistaken notion about the solar eclipse saying, “The sun and the moon are two signs of Allah; they are not eclipsed on account of anyone’s death or on account of anyone’s birth. So when you see them, glorify and supplicate Allah, observe the Prayer, give alms.”
How Does It Take Place?
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is near its full phase and enters the earth’s shadow. With an orbit inclined 5.1 degrees relative to the Ecliptic Circle, the moon misses the earth’s shadow during most Full Moons… about two to three times a year.
Even though the intersection of the moon’s orbit along the ecliptic (its ascending or descending node) falls near the dark inner umbra of the earth’s shadow ringed by the bright outer penumbral shadow, and a lunar eclipse occurs.
A lunar eclipse can either be a subtle penumbral, a partial eclipse just grazing the inner umbra, or, as we’re seeing this month, a total lunar eclipse, with the moon fully immersed in the earth’s dark umbra.
The penumbral phases of a lunar eclipse are subtle, and you probably won’t notice a slight tea-colored shading on the moon’s limb until about 30 minutes after it starts.
Things start to get interesting once the Moon first approaches the ragged dark edge of the umbra. Then the real action begins, as totality starts.
Observing eclipses can punctuate our lives, clockwork events we can count on. But not all eclipses are created the same; the color and shade of the eclipsed moon are described as its Danjon Number, with 0 being dark, and 4 being a bright eclipse.
Today’s event will be the last total lunar eclipse of the current decade. You can watch live through the worldwide telescope Slooh.