A “Super” Total Lunar Eclipse and a Disappearing Star

 

September 27th, 2015

As many people are now aware, there is a total lunar eclipse this Sunday night, the 27th. What sets this one apart is that it’s the first in thirty years that occurs when the Moon is at its closest to the Earth for the whole year (hence, the “super” Moon.)

Although it’s a little closer, the difference in size will not be noticeable to the casual observer. Instead, look out for something else of interest: a disappearing star. At around 9:45 p.m. Eastern Time (2:45 a.m. GMT) take a look at the Moon with a pair of binoculars but pay close attention to the star that appears to the lower left. (Click on the left image above and look for the red arrow.)

Check back every five minutes or so; if you live in the New York City area, it will probably disappear around 10:00 p.m. and then re-appear again about an hour later – roughly fifteen minutes into the eclipse. While you’re looking, try your hand at spotting Uranus and Vesta as they’ll be relatively easy to find in the temporarily darkened sky. You can see them circled in the image below. (Click on the middle image to enlarge.)

If you don’t have binoculars, you can always enjoy the eclipse with just your eyes. As you do, think about what you’re witnessing. The Moon is actually passing through the Earth’s shadow in space and appears a coppery red due to the sunlight refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere. The darkness of the Moon will depend upon the amount of dust that’s in the air at the time.

While a lunar eclipse is not as stunning as an eclipse of the Sun, it’s still an awe-inspiring sight and previous eclipses have even played a part in history. For example, on February 29th, 1504, Columbus threatened to extinguish the light of the Moon because the Native Americans refused to provide him with supplies. Consequently, when the eclipse began and the Moon was darkened, the natives were quick to comply.

Hopefully, this year no one should be using the eclipse to deceive anyone. If you want to see it for yourself it should be easily visible (weather permitting) throughout much of western Europe and North America although, of course, the specific times will vary. For example, if you live in England, you’ll need to stay up into the early hours of Monday morning whereas American and Canadian observers can enjoy it in the hours before midnight.

Check the table below for timing or be sure to check here for specific information for your location.

 

  British Summer Time Eastern Time Central Time Mountain Time Pacific Time
Penumbral Eclipse Begins 1:11am 8:11pm 7:11pm 6:11pm 5:11pm
 
Partial Eclipse Begins 2:07am 9:07pm 8:07pm 7:07pm 6:07pm
 
Total Eclipse Begins 3:11am 10:11pm 9:11pm 8:11pm 7:11pm
 
Maximum Eclipse 3:47am 10:47pm 9:47pm 8:47pm 7:47pm
 
Total Eclipse Ends 4:23am 11:23pm 10:23pm 9:23pm 8:23pm
 
Partial Eclipse Ends 5:27am 12:27am 11:27pm 10:27pm 9:27pm
 
Penumbral Eclipse Ends 6:22am 1:22am 12:22am 11:22pm 10:22pm

 

All Astronomical Events for September 27th, 2015

07:13 UT – Asteroid 4 Vesta has reached its maximum brightness for 2015. Magnitude: 6.0 (Cetus, all night.)

The constellation Pisces (the Fishes) culminates at midnight tonight. (Naked eye, all night.)

 

Events in bold involve objects and/or events that are visible with the naked eye.

Unless otherwise specified, all times are in Universal Time (UTC). To convert the time to your timezone, click here.

Astronomical events taken from 2015: An Astronomical Year, available in Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon in the USCanada and the United Kingdom. Sky simulations created using Stellarium.

2015 An Astronomical Year (Kindle Edition) 2016 An Astronomical Year Paperback Cover 2016 The Night Sky Sights
2015: An Astronomical Year 2016: An Astronomical Year 2016: The Night Sky Sights The Astronomical Almanac (2016-2020) The Amateur Astronomer’s Notebook (Pocket Edition)
(Kindle & Paperback) (Kindle & Paperback) (Kindle & Paperback) (Kindle & Paperback) (Paperback)
Amazon – US Amazon – US Amazon – US Amazon – US Amazon – US
Amazon – UK Amazon – UK Amazon – UK Amazon – UK Amazon – UK

Details of all available books across the world can be found by visiting the author’s page on Amazon. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me at astronomywriter “at” gmail.com

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