Mark your calendar. On May 26th, the full Moon will pass through the shadow of Earth producing a total lunar eclipse. For 14 and a half minutes, the disk of the Moon will turn orange--the same color as the core of our planet's shadow.
The eclipse will be visible from Antarctica, Australia, parts of Asia and the Americas: World Map. In the USA, the best place to be is near the west coast, where the eclipse will unfold in its entirety before sunrise. The low-hanging Moon will look extra big and beautiful because of the Moon Illusion. On the east coast, the eclipse will not be visible at all: USA Map.
Did you see last week's full Moon? It was unique. Why? Because no two full Moons are exactly alike. To prove it, Paolo Bardelli of Sumirago, Italy, photographed the last 12 full Moons and stacked the pictures to highlight their differences:
"From each full Moon photo, I cut out a slice, then placed the slices side by side," explains Bardelli. "The Moons of Jan. 10th and June 5th are dark because they are taken from shots of the penumbral eclipses that occurred in those days."
None of the slices are the same. Some are wide, others narrow. Each one faces in a slightly different direction. These differences are a result of the Moon's motion around its tilted, elliptical orbit. Each full Moon occurs at a different point in that orbit, and so we see it from a slightly different distance and angle.
Scroll up and down past the slices; they seem to rock back and forth. The rocking motions are called libration; because of them we can see 59% of the Moon's surface rather than the 50% you might have learned in school. So pay attention to the next full Moon (Jan 28th). It's as unique as you are.
A parhelic circle is an unforgettable sight. Thin and pale, it circles the zenith in a majestic arc, always keeping the same distance above the horizon. On Dec. 27th, Göran Strand of Handöl, Sweden, saw a parhelic circle but, strangely, the sun was nowhere around. This parhelic circle was passing through the Moon:
"It has been a long time since I saw a lunar halo, and I can't remember the last time I saw one with such a prominent parhelic circle," says Strand. "It was an amazing sight."
The parhelic circle is not the ring around the Moon; that's a 22-degree halo. Instead it is the almost-horizontal arc cutting through the Moon. The rest of the parhelic circle was too big to fit in the field of view of Strand's camera.
Parhelic circles are formed by sunlight reflecting from the vertical faces of ice crystals--millions of them floating in thin cirrus clouds spread almost evenly across the sky. In this case, bright moonlight + cirrus clouds performed the same trick.
Note: Because this circle is caused by moonlight rather than sunlight, it is most correctly called a "parselenic circle."
May 16, 2018 / Dr.Tony PhillipsFive hundred years ago, Leonardo da Vinci proposed an outlandish theory explaining why the Moon’s surface glows after lunar nightfall. Turns out, his idea was correct. The Da Vinci Glow–also known as “Earthshine”–makes the entire lunar disk visible even when the sunlit fraction is just a few percent.
For much of human history, people marveled at the faint image of the full Moon inside the arms of the crescent. Where did it come from? No one knew until the 16th century when Leonardo figured it out. He realized that sunlight reflected from Earth lit up the lunar night.
Da Vinci’s sketch of Earthshine in 1510
vs. Italian astronomer Riccardo Di Nasso’s photo of Earthshine in 2006.
Visualizing this in the 1500s required a wild kind of imagination. No one had ever been to the Moon and looked “up” at Earth. Most people didn’t even know that Earth orbited the sun. Copernicus’ sun-centered theory of the solar system wasn’t published until 1543, twenty-four years after Leonardo died.
Wild imagination was one thing Leonardo had in abundance. His notebooks are filled with sketches of flying machines, army tanks, scuba gear and other fantastic devices centuries ahead of their time.
In Leonardo’s Codex Leicester, circa 1510, there is a page entitled “Of the Moon: No Solid Body is Lighter than Air.” He states his belief that the “ghostly glow” is due to sunlight bouncing off Earth’s oceans and, in turn, hitting the Moon. 500 years later, we know that Earth’s clouds (not oceans) do most of the reflecting; but that is a quibble. Leonardo understood the basics well enough.
Go outside and look at the next crescent Moon. The Da Vinci Glow is waiting….
Suspicious0bservers: Daily Sun, Earth and Science News
Today's Featured Links:
Slime Mold, Cosmic Web? -
New Moon Hypothesis Need: https://news.unm.edu/news/new-researc...
Solar Forecast: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2003.04563.pdf
Geomag Max in Mesopotamia: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science...
Amazon to Disappear? https://www.bangor.ac.uk/news/researc... …
Probably not: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/ima...
The Moon is about to take a bite out of the sun. On Saturday, August 11th, there will be a partial solar eclipse visible from locations around the Arctic Circle and across much of Asia. During the 3+ hour event, as much as 73% of the solar disk will be covered. Selected cities in the eclipse zone include Moscow (2.1% coverage), Oslo (4.8%), Raykjavik (20%), Tromso (29%), and Seoul (35%). www.spaceweather.com
On July 27, 2018, the Moon passed through the shadow of our planet, producing the longest lunar eclipse of the century. The face of the Moon turned red for 1 hour and 43 minutes--an event visible from every continent except North America. Anthony Ayiomamitis photographed the eclipse from Athens, Greece:
"We were very fortunate to have pristine skies for this evenings longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century," says Ayiomamitis.
In the composite image, above, Anthony sandwiched an image of the all-red totally eclipsed Moon between images of the Moon just before and after totality. Note the fringes of pale blue in those outer Moons.
The blue color is caused by ozone. Atmospheric scientist Richard Keen of the University of Colorado explains: "Most of the light illuminating the Moon passes through the stratosphere, and is reddened by scattering. However, light passing through the upper stratosphere penetrates the ozone layer, which absorbs red light and actually makes the passing light ray bluer." This creates a turquoise-blue border around the red.
Friday, July 27th, is a big night for astronomy. First, Mars will be at opposition--directly opposite the sun and making a 15-year close approach to Earth. Second, Mars and the Moon will be in conjunction--less than 10 degrees apart. Third, the Moon will pass through the shadow of Earth, producing the longest lunar eclipse in a century--visible everywhere except North America. What a night! Tune into live webcasts from Israel and Belgium.
Yesterday, Jan. 31st, the full Moon passed directly through the shadow of Earth, producing a total lunar eclipse. The shadowed Moon turned a coppery shade of orange visible in Asia, Australia and much of North America. Chirag Upreti sends this picture from New York City:
"The eclipse was gorgeous," says Upreti. "As morning twilight illuminated the landscape, the Moon was already low on the horizon. What a stunning scene to absorb on a really cold morning! Just as I was taking the picture, an airplane passed over the Statue of Liberty and a sea gull photobombed the eclipsed Moon at the same time."
On Wednesday, Jan. 31st, there's going to be a "Blue Moon"–the second full Moon in a calendar month. People who go outside to look may see a different hue: bright orange. This Blue Moon is going to be eclipsed, swallowed by copper-colored shadow of Earth for more than an hour. The eclipse will be visible from Asia, Australia, and most of North America: visibility map.
The bright orange color of the eclipse may be chalked up to volcanic activity–or rather, lack thereof. Atmospheric scientist Richard Keen from the University of Colorado explains:
"During a lunar eclipse, most of the light illuminating the Moon passes through Earth's stratosphere where it is reddened by scattering," he says. "If the stratosphere is loaded with dust from volcanic eruptions, the eclipse will be dark. The cataclysmic explosion of Tambora in 1815, for instance, turned the Moon into a dark, starless hole in sky during two subsequent eclipses."
But Earth is experiencing a bit of a volcanic lull. We haven't had a major volcanic blast since 1991 when Mt Pinatubo awoke from a 500 year slumber and sprayed ten billion cubic meters of ash, rock and debris into Earth's atmosphere. Recent eruptions have been puny by comparison and have failed to make a dent on the stratosphere. To Keen, the interregnum means one thing: "This eclipse is going to be bright and beautiful."
From "Two Centuries of Volcanic Aerosols Derived from Lunar Eclipse Records"
by R. A. Keen
Keen studies lunar eclipses because of what they can tell us about Earth's energy balance. A transparent stratosphere "lets the sunshine in" and actually helps warm the Earth below. "The lunar eclipse record indicates a clear stratosphere has contributed about 0.2 degrees to warming since the 1980s."
"Mt. Pinatubo finished a 110-year episode of frequent major eruptions that began with Krakatau in 1883," he says. "Since then, lunar eclipses have been relatively bright, and the Jan. 31st eclipse should be no exception."
In the USA, the best time to look is during the hours before sunrise. Western states are favored: The Moon makes first contact with the core of Earth's shadow at 3:48 am Pacific Time, kicking off the partial eclipse. Totality begins at 4:52 am PST as Earth's shadow engulfs the lunar disk for more than an hour. "Maximum orange" is expected around 5:30 am PST. Easternmost parts of the USA will miss totality altogether.
The biggest and brightest full Moon of 2017 is coming tonight. It's a perigee "supermoon," almost 8% wider and 16% brighter than an average full Moon. Miguel Claro photographed the waxing orb (98% full) rising over lake Monsaraz in Portugal's Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve on Dec. 2nd:
Full moons vary in size because the Moon's orbit is not a circle, it's an ellipse: diagram. One side of the Moon's orbit, called "perigee," is 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other side, "apogee." This Sunday's Moon becomes full only 16 hours away from perigee, closer than any other full Moon of 2017.
Some people say you can't tell the difference between a supermoon and a regular Moon. A 16% difference in brightness can easily be masked by clouds or the glare of urban lights. Also, there are no rulers floating in the sky to measure lunar diameters. Hanging high overhead with no reference points to provide a sense of scale, one full Moon looks much like any other. There is no doubt, however, that supermoons are genuinely bigger than their ordinary cousins.
To get the most out of Sunday's apparition, try to catch the Moon just as it is rising or setting. This will activate the Moon Illusion and make the perigee Moon of Dec. 3rd look super, indeed.
Only a few weeks ago, it seemed that the sun would be quiet and featureless when the Moon eclipsed it on Aug. 21st. Solar Minimum was in full swing. This weekend, however, the sun is welcoming the eclipse with a burst of renewed activity. "As the Moon approaches the sun, our nearest star is extending a friendly hand towards it," says Dave Eagle who sends this picture from Higham Ferrers, England:
"There is a huge prominence on the sun's eastern limb. If you are in the total eclipse path set your clock to greet this awesome spectacle on Monday," he says.
And that's just for starters. In addition, a remarkably-long sunspot group is sprawling across the solar disk. AR2671 stretches 140,000 miles from end to end, almost twice as wide as the planet Jupiter. Bill Hrudey sends this picture of the behemoth from the Cayman Islands:
Amateur astronomers watching the eclipse through safe solar telescopes will have no trouble seeing the rugged edge of the Moon cut across this impressive sunspot, eclipsing one dark core after another. If we're really lucky, the sunspot will explode. AR2671 has a 'beta-gamma' magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares. Free: Solar Flare Alerts
On Aug. 21, 2017, every square inch of the USA will experience a solar eclipse. In most places, the eclipse will be partial - that is, the Moon will cross the sun off-center, leaving a crescent shaped portion of the solar disk exposed. Is it really worth the trip to the path of totality when you can stay home and see the partial eclipse? Pulitzer prize winner Annie Dillard, who witnessed both types of eclipses in 1979, compared them as follows:
"A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane."
Indeed, during the minutes of totality, the whole world changes. Saying that day turns into night barely scratches the surface of it. The shadow of the Moon lances down to Earth from a quarter million miles away. On one end is you; on the other end is a million square miles of dusty lunar terrain. You're connected, and you can feel the cold.
Image Credit & Copyright: Tunç Tezel (TWAN), Alkim Ün
Darkness inside the path of totality has an alien quality. Because the shadow is only 70 miles wide, you can see daylight at the edges even while you stand in the dark core. This distant scattered light produces a slight reddish glow and unusual shadow effects. Many birds stop singing, daytime flower blossoms begin to close as if for the night, and bees return to their hives.
"What you see in an eclipse is entirely different from what you know," says Dillard, whose brilliant essay "Total Eclipse" is a must-read for anyone deciding whether to stay home ... or have their minds blown.
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