Arizona sky watchers can witness total lunar eclipse next weekend

Jan 16, 2019, 2:00 PM

With the new year now in full swing, get set for the first major sky event of 2019!

Arizona sky watchers have a ringside seat for one of the most amazing lunar eclipses in some time on Saturday.

We will experience the wonders of a total lunar eclipse!

This type of eclipse is totally safe to view with the naked eye, binoculars or telescopes, as the eclipse is caused by the Earth blocking out the light that the Moon gets from the Sun.

These types of eclipses are much more common than a total solar eclipse, like the one which was seen here in the U.S. on Aug. 21, 2017.

That eclipse was total for only a few minutes, for lucky observers in a tiny path some 70 miles wide across a large portion of the nation.

This particular lunar eclipse will be best seen by Arizona sky watchers, during the late evening, till around local midnight on the night of Jan. 20.

You still need to prepare for this event, as many people will want to have cameras and binoculars at the ready.

There are two distinct portions of this eclipse which are mentioned in many news articles.

The first part of the eclipse, is when the Moon moves into the outer shadow of Earth, known as the penumbra.

This is a very difficult shadow to be seen by the naked eye, or even with a telescope!

That portion begins at 7:36 p.m. Mountain Time, as the Moon will ride in northeast sky in the constellation area of Cancer the Crab.

The other shadow that is produced by the Earth is the umbra.

This is the deepest shadow and one that will be noticed, as the partial phase of the eclipse begins with a slow darkening of the left edge of the Moon.

This will begin at 8:33 p.m. MST. The Moon will be some 35 degrees high in the eastern sky.

Now is the time to get out your cameras, binoculars and telescopes, as the ever growing umbral shadow will cross the surface of the Moon.

For those that like some additional facts; this is a lunar eclipse from an eclipse series, known as a saros. This eclipse is from a cycle of eclipses (Saros), which are number 134.

There are 73 eclipses in this saros and this will be the 27th eclipse.

The next lunar eclipse of saros 134 will occur on Jan. 31, 2037.

The last total lunar eclipse which was visible in Arizona occurred back on Jan. 31, 2018.

The point is simply this; there are some 85 total lunar eclipses in this century!

Now for the best part!

The total phase of this eclipse will begin at 9:41 p.m. Mountain Time, as the moon will be nearly 50 degrees high in the eastern sky.

The red color of the moon is due to light that scatters around the Earth at the time of the eclipse. The less transparency of the atmosphere, the darker the eclipse.

The surface of the full moon, when not in eclipse, has a surface temperature of nearly 260 degrees Fahrenheit and during the deepest of the eclipse, the temperature may drop to well below 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

The day on the near side of the moon, lasts around 13.5 days and then the far side is in sunlight for another 13.5 days.

This eclipse offers us some 62 minutes of totality and this is the time to experience the event at its best, as maximum totality will occur at 10:12 p.m. Mountain Time.

All good things must come to an end, as the total phase ends at 10:43 p.m., with the Moon some 60 degrees high in our Arizona skies.

The partial phases go in reverse and the umbral eclipse will end for us at 11:50 p.m., just shy of midnight.

For those of you that would like a more detailed analysis of this eclipse, please refer to this link.

Here is an interesting video to enjoy the eclipse.

Here is how to photograph the total lunar eclipse.

All we need now is clear skies!

Best of luck and enjoy!

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday morning at 3 a.m.

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