In the night between January 20 and 21, the moon will fall into the shadow of the earth. Everyone in North and South America – as well as parts of northern Europe and the northwest coast of Africa – will be able to see the full solar eclipse that completely covers the moon for an hour and two minutes.
The Moon will be near the Earth, which will become the "Supermoon," meaning it will appear a bit bigger in the sky. It will also be the last total lunar eclipse by May 2021. Look at that!
The partial phase of the solar eclipse begins at 20:36 Eastern Time on December 20. The full eclipse – marked by the blood red shadow of the moon – starts at 11:41 pm (East) and ends at 12:43 pm on the 21st. Check when the eclipse starts in your local time and hope for a clear sky!
Why do we have lunar eclipses?
The simple answer is "because the moon sometimes goes through the shadow of the earth". But there is more behind it.
First, it must happen during a full moon. When the moon is full, it means that the sun, earth, and moon are in line:
Now you may think, "Why do not we have all the lunar eclipses of the moon? "
The orbit of the moon does not fit perfectly with that of the earth. It's tilted 5 degrees:
No one knows exactly why, but it could have something to do with how the moon was likely to form: a massive object burrowing into the earth.
This means that during most moons the shadow misses the moon, as you can see in the picture above.
There are two points in the orbit of the moon where the shadow can fall to the earth. These are called knots.
For a total solar eclipse to occur, the moon must be at one of the nodes or very close to it.
When the sun, the earth and the moon are aligned at a junction, voila! The moon falls into the path of the shadow of the earth.
There are usually two or three lunar eclipses in one year, and anyone lucky enough to be on the night side of the earth during a lunar eclipse has a chance to experience it.
You do not need any special equipment or goggles to look at (as opposed to a total eclipse). But with binoculars you get a better and more detailed look at the geography of the moon as it darkens in the shadows.
What is a Supermoon?
The orbit of the moon around the earth is not a perfect circle. It's an ellipse, a saucer shape that's longer than it's wide. As the moon follows this orbit, it is sometimes closer to the earth and sometimes farther away. At Perigee, the next point in its orbit to Earth, it is about 31,068 miles closer to Earth than it is farthest from apogee.
In the meantime, we see different phases of the moon – full, crescent, waxing and waning – depending on whether the side of the moon facing the sun faces the earth.
A supermoon is when these two cycles fit together and we have a full moon that is near the perigee. The result is that the full "super" moon in the sky seems a bit bigger and a little brighter. This occurs at about one in 14 full moon, notes Jim Lattis, an astronomer at the University of Wisconsin Madison.
The difference between a normal full moon and a supermoon is not that big. Neil deGrasse Tyson has called the rage about bloated supermonsoons. "If you have a 16-inch pizza, would you call this a super pizza versus a 15-inch pizza?" He said in the StarTalk radio broadcast. According to NASA, the differences between a normal full moon and a supermoon are largely "indistinguishable to the human eye."
The supermoon has no astronomical significance except for a slightly larger target for astronomers in the backyard.
Why does the moon turn red during a lunar eclipse?
During a total eclipse of the sun – as it had seen in North America last summer – the entire brighter than bright slice of the sun turns black and reveals the sun's atmosphere.
What happens during a total lunar eclipse is a little less dramatic, but still beautiful.
When sunlight penetrates the atmosphere, the gases in it capture the blue light in the spectrum and scatter it. (That's why the sky turns blue.) The red, orange, and yellow wavelengths go into the shadows of the earth and are projected onto the moon.
Basically, according to Jox Fong of Vox, a total lunar eclipse is like projecting all sunsets and sunrises onto the moon.
o'clock: Eclipses, explains