Lunar Eclipse Preview

Get ready for Wednesday morning’s big event.

Seronik - Feb 20 Eclipse

This sequence of images from the February 2008 lunar eclipse illustrates what we may see this week. Courtesy Gary Seronik

On the morning of October 8, the full Moon will drift through the Earth’s shadow, resulting in a total lunar eclipse. This is one of the year’s celestial highlights, so if you missed out on the April event, this eclipse is a rare second chance. During the eclipse the full Moon will turn a coppery red hue and may even be so dim that it becomes difficult to spot.

Observers on the West Coast will get the best view, but most of Canada (and the Americas) will see at least some totality. (The exception is Newfoundland and parts of Nova Scotia where the Moon sets before totality begins.) Events get under way at 1:15 a.m., PDT, on October 8 (4:15 a.m. EDT) when the Moon first contacts the penumbra — the faint, outer edge of the Earth’s shadow. Things really become noticeable though an hour later (at 2:14 a.m., PDT) when the lunar disc reaches the dark part of our planet’s shadow, the umbra. Midtotality occurs at 3:55 a.m., PDT, and the Moon starts to leave the umbra at 4:24 a.m., PDT. The eclipse is completely over at 6:33 a.m., PDT, when the Moon exits the penumbral shadow. Bright morning twilight will make the final moments of the eclipse impossible to observe even from the West Coast, where the the sun rises moments after the event concludes.

October 8 lunar eclipse diagram

Eclipse diagram generated with Coelix.

Because the Moon will pass slightly above the centre of the umbra, expect to top half of the lunar disc to appear brighter than the bottom. Also, keep an eye out for subtle colour gradations across the Moon’s face. A small telescope or binoculars will help make these features more obvious.

Here’s a purple-prosed NASA video summarizing the event:

If you plan on photographing the eclipse, it’s a good idea to set up your gear a night or two before and perform a dry run session photographing the Moon. There’s nothing like actually going through the entire process to ensure that your gear is working properly and that you know how to use it.

For more information about eclipse, turn to page 36 of the September/October issue of SkyNews. For more photography tips, have a look at this article. Of course, if you do manage to get a good photo or two, we’d love to see them You can e-mail them to us at editor@skynews.ca.

Categories: Moon and Planets
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