There’s the opportunity of a lifetime for some lucky observers in Alaska, Asia, Australia, eastern Europe, New Zealand and the Pacific tonight as the Moon undergoes a very short-lived total lunar eclipse. Whereas many eclipses can last for hours, this one lasts for only four minutes and forty-three seconds, making this the shortest lunar eclipse of the 21st century.
The reason is because the Moon barely skims through the umbra, the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow, whereas it will normally pass right through the center (see image above.) Consequently, almost as soon as the entire lunar disc moves into the shadow, it’s starting to emerge again.
(Other areas may see the Moon rise or set partway through the eclipse or may be able to see a partial lunar eclipse without any totality. For example, observers in the Mountain Time and Pacific time zones of North America may be able to catch the first half of the eclipse. In those areas, totality may be seen before the Moon sinks below the horizon; mid-eclipse occurs at 6:00am MDT and at 5:00am PDT.)
(Click on an image to enlarge.)
09:01 UT – P1 – The Moon begins entering the penumbra.
10:15 UT – U1 – The Moon begins entering the umbra.
11:57 UT – U2 – The Moon completely enters the umbra and totality begins.
12:00 UT – Mid eclipse. Totality begins at 11:57 UT and lasts for a short 4 minutes and 43 seconds before coming to an end at 12:02 UT. The entire eclipse is only visible from Alaska, far eastern Asia, eastern Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Ocean and north-eastern Siberia. (Naked eye, Virgo, visible all night. See images above.)
12:02 UT – U3 – The Moon begins to leave the umbra.
13:44 UT – U4 – The Moon completely leaves the umbra.
14:58 UT – P4 – The Moon completely leaves the penumbra.
Mercury leaves Pisces and enters Cetus. (98% illuminated, magnitude -1.4, diameter 5.0”. Not visible.)
Events in bold involve objects and/or events that are easily visible with the naked eye.
All times are in Universal Time (UTC). To convert the time to your timezone, click here.
Learn more about upcoming astronomical events in 2015 An Astronomical Year (Kindle Edition) and The Astronomical Almanac (2015-2019) (Kindle Edition and Paperback Edition) and 2016 An Astronomical Year (North American Kindle Edition.)
The Amateur Astronomer’s Notebook allows astronomers to log 150 observing sessions and includes an appendix of hundreds of suggested deep sky objects.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me at astronomywriter “at” gmail.com