Catch the refined lunar eclipse on Monday morning

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A lunar eclipse in the early morning hours of November 30th marks the start of the final solar eclipse season for 2020.

Howl at the moon on Sunday evening? Sunday evening to Monday morning November 30th not only offers the penultimate full moon for 2020, but also the last lunar eclipse of the year with a penumbral eclipse of the moon.

The solar eclipse is a subtle penumbral eclipse, the fourth and last of four such solar eclipses in 2020 and the last lunar eclipse for the decade. The moon doesn't turn blood red like it does during a total lunar eclipse: at most, expect a fine, tea-colored shade to fall on the moon, with possibly a jagged discoloration on the northwestern edge of the moon near the center of the eclipse.

The solar eclipse is visible in its entirety from North America, while in South America the solar eclipse occurs at sunrise / moonset and in East Asia and Australia the solar eclipse is in progress at sunset / moonrise. Hawaii has the best view, with the eclipsed moon very near the zenith.

The moon against the shadow of the earth during the solar eclipse on Monday morning. Adapted from NASA / GSFC / F. Espenak graphic

Times for the solar eclipse are:

– The moon will begin entering Earth's penumbra (P1) on Monday, November 30th at 7:32 a.m. Universal Time (UT) / 2:32 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

-Mid Eclipse occurs at 9:44 UT / 4:44 EST.

-The moon leaves the penumbra of the earth (P4) at 11:53 UT / 6: 53 EST.

The visibility footprint for Monday's solar eclipse. Photo credit: NASA / GSFC / Fred Espenak

The entire solar eclipse lasts 4 hours and 21 minutes … but the best time to get a look at and see a moon is around the middle of the solar eclipse, when the moon is 83% submerged in the penumbra. The moon misses the inner dark umber of the earth's shadow by less than 10 arc minutes.

This solar eclipse also marks the beginning of the last solar eclipse season for 2020. If the orbit of the moon were aligned with the ecliptic flight of the earth around the sun, we would see one solar eclipse every 29.5 days: one lunar and one full and solar eclipse. New moon. Since the moon's orbit is tilted a little more than five degrees relative to the ecliptic, we have to wait for the intersection nodes to line up for a solar eclipse season, which happens roughly twice a year. This also means that eclipses occur in moon-sun pairs. In the case of the upcoming solar eclipse season, the penumbral eclipse on Monday will be followed by a total solar eclipse that will extend over the southern tip of South America on December 14th.

A secret "helicopter transit" that was recorded shortly before an impending penumbral eclipse. Photo Credit and Copyright: Mary McIntyre

Stories of the Saros

In addition, lunar and solar eclipses are members of a larger period of 18 years, 11 days, and 8 hours known as saros. This works because 223 synodic lunations (the amount of time it takes for the moon to return to the same phase i.e. full to full or new to new) is almost equal to a saros. This also means that successive eclipses with very similar circumstances occur one saros apart, with the visual path shifted 120 degrees to the west. Several saroses play every year – both moon and sun saroses. In the case of the Penumbral on Monday, this solar eclipse is a member 58 of 73 solar eclipses in the Lunar Saros series 116, which began on March 11, 933 AD and lasts until 2291. Saros 116 also produced its last total lunar eclipse on July 11th, 1786 and is now on its way to the door, with a final shallow penumbral eclipse on May 14th, 2291.

Why do penumbrals occur? Why does the earth not cast a clear, sharp shadow in space? This double shadow has to do with the nature of light and the fact that the sun is not a point source: it is visually close to the apparent size of the moon from Earth, as observed during a total solar eclipse. You see this secondary shadow effect on a daily basis in places like a room that is only lit by a side window: once you know you need to look for it, penumbra is literally everywhere.

An eclipse mug that illustrates the dual anatomy of a shadow. Photo credit: Dave Dickinson

Here's another point of view: when you witness a partial solar eclipse, you are also in the penumbra of the moon. If you stand near the moon on Monday morning and look back at Earth (with proper eye protection, of course), you will see a partial solar eclipse.

The solar eclipse on Monday … seen from the moon. Image credit: Stellarium

It turns out that a newcomer will actually be on the moon, provided they land successfully: China's Chang & # 39; e 5-sample return mission set to land in Mon Rümker in the Oceanus Procellarum region this weekend. There's no word on whether the team plans to (or even needs to be able to) image the partial solar eclipse, but this possible view from the lunar surface would be a first.

Here's a fun naked eye observation to make during a penumbral eclipse: Get a look at the full moon just before the middle of the "penumbralarity …". Would you notice that something is going on if you didn't know better? Can you spy out the ragged edge of the umber and try in vain to devour the moon? Perhaps a lux or colorimeter (common on many smartphones these days) can detect the slight difference in brightness and hue during a penumbral eclipse.

An easier way to “see” the solar eclipse is to simply image the moon before, during and after the solar eclipse with exactly the same camera and the same settings. Does the photo look noticeably different to you in the middle of the solar eclipse?

Before and during … can you spy on the penumbral eclipse? Photo credit: Dave Dickinson

Fear not: the total drought of the lunar eclipse is almost over. While 2021 will only have four solar eclipses (the minimum that occurs in a calendar year, which must be 2 lunar and 2 solar eclipses), we actually have a total lunar eclipse on May 26th, which favors the Pacific region.

When the sky is clear, be sure to set your alarm for the penultimate penumbral eclipse of 2020.

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