The First Lunar Eclipse of 2019 — It’s Going to be a Supermoon (and Time)

A lunar eclipse is set to kick off the new year, when the Moon will pass into the shadow of the Earth on the night of Sunday, January 20th. This stunning astronomical event will be visible from all parts of North and South America.

Eclipses result when the Moon travels into the shadow of the Earth, as our companion satellite orbits around our home world. But, that is not all this particular phenomenon holds for viewers.

“The full moon will also be at its closest point to Earth in its orbit, called perigee. While at perigee, the Moon appears slightly bigger and brighter from our perspective on Earth, so it’s often referred to as a “supermoon,” Jet Propulsion Laboratory reports on their website.

Lunar Eclipse
A lunar eclipse seen during a full Moon, from the Colorado State Building in 2015. Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Here’s how to view the lunar eclipse!

Go outside on the night of the 20th, starting at 9:36 pm for viewers on the east coast (8:36 Central Time, 7:36 Mountain/Arizona, 6:36 Pacific). As the Moon moves, the shadow of the Earth slowly covers the surface of our planetary companion. This shadow begins as a reddish hue, developing into blood red, before growing dark gray or black at the height of the eclipse. This process then goes in reverse, as the Moon slowly moves out of the shadow of our home world.

Skywatchers on the west coast will see the peak of the eclipse at around 9:12 pm.

Most of the year, the orbit of the Moon is tilted slightly from the orbit the Earth takes around the Sun, so we don’t see a lunar eclipse every month. However, this alignment changes over the course of time, and only when everything is aligned can an eclipse occur. This is know as “eclipse season.”

Lunar eclipse
Take a look to see why lunar eclipses do – and don’t occur over time, as the moon orbits the Earth, and we orbit the Sun! Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The eclipse happening on the night of January 20th will end at 2:48 am in the opening hours of the following day as seen from the eastern United States (11:48 Pacific)

Lunar eclipses are an ideal phenomenon for everyone to share, including children. No telescopes or binoculars are needed, although they are a great addition to this type of amateur astronomy. Just find a comfortable place to sit, with a good view of the Moon. Bring snacks, warm drinks to enjoy on the cold night, and enjoy the show with loved ones. This is sure to be a great way to kick off the new year.

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