“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
If you don’t know what I am talking about, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past few months. Otherwise, you probably know that there is a total lunar eclipse coming this Wednesday morning (January 31, 2018). You may also have heard a lot of talk about it being a super moon and a blue moon and a blood moon.
It turns out this that Full Moon is at or near its closest point to the Earth. In this case, it is not quite as “super” as the first Full Moon at the beginning of the year.
And of course there is a total lunar eclipse, although it is before dawn and while most of North America will see totality, western observers are favored. The entire event from beginning to end will be seen from Western Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, Australia and much of East Asia.
For most of the continent, the Sun rises and the Moon sets before the end of totality. Here is a table of timings derived from data courtesy of Fred Espenak and MrEclipse.com
For additional information, see this page on EarthSky:
The following is specifically for the Denver area. If you live East of Denver, you can adjust your times from the table above. Unfortunately, the farther east you go, the lower the Moon will be in the sky. It will already have gone down before the end of totality in most locations. For locations West of Denver, the Moon will be higher in the sky and those on the West Coast will be able (weather permitting) to see it through until the end of totality.
Specifically for the Denver area, the eclipse actually begins as the Moon enters the Earth’s outer shadow at about 3:51 am, but you won’t likely notice anything at that time. The better part of the eclipse begins with the partial phase, which begins at about 4:49 am. Shortly after this time you should be able to notice a darkening at the upper limb of the Moon. This darkening — the Earth’s inner shadow or umbra — will creep across the Moon until it is completely covered and totality begins at 5:52 am.
By the time of totality, the Moon will be low in the West-northwestern sky, only about 14 degrees high as seen from Denver. By “greatest” eclipse (essentially the mid-point) at 6:30 am, the Moon will be quite low in the West-northwest, hovering just above the mountains for some locations in the eastern part of the Denver area, but already lost behind the mountains for locations on the West side. Totality is over at 7:08 am, by which time the Moon is setting and the Sun is rising.
There will be several eclipses — both solar and lunar – this year, but this is the only one visible from North America. The next eclipse visible for us will be January 21, 2019.
Carl Sagan quote taken from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. I should admit that I took it out of context a bit as Sagan was referring to religious beliefs. But I think it is appropriate here, too.