When the moon hits your eye as it glows in the sky — it's about to be red. Enter the total lunar eclipse of the super blood wolf moon, which takes place late Sunday, Jan. 20 into the early morning hours of Jan. 21.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth, and moon line up and the Earth blocks the sun’s light from reaching the moon. This particular total lunar eclipse is a unique one because it’s mixed with a supermoon, which is rare.
“Supermoon is when a full moon is closest to the Earth,” says Donald Lubowich, a research astronomer at Hofstra University in Hempstead. “It appears about 13 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter.”
During the eclipse, “the moon will go into the shadow of the Earth getting darker and darker,” he says. “If we had no atmosphere, it would be completely black. But because the atmosphere of the Earth has dust and gas, it scatters the light making the moon visible. It will be either orange, copper or red depending on how much volcanic dust is in the atmosphere.”
GETTING A GOOD VIEW
While the event will be visible to the naked eye, observing the moon's details through binoculars or a telescope will only enhance the experience. Hofstra is hosting a viewing session on the night of the eclipse which will start at 11 p.m. with a short discussion followed by a venture to the roof of Herman Berliner Hall to view the total lunar eclipse through eight telescopes and get close-up views of the craters, mountains and valleys on the moon.
“We will have a cellphone mount to take video or pictures,” Lubowich says. “We will also look at other interesting objects in the sky such as multicolored double stars, Orion Nebula and other star clusters.”
The aesthetic of the moon will be something to be marveled as it changes color during the darkest part of the process when it’s in complete shadow from 11:41 p.m. to 12:44 a.m., also known as the umbra phase. “There will be a cinematic look to it,” says Hofstra senior Ben Lichy, 21, of Merrick, an astronomy student who will be assisting Lubowich. “It has a very calming effect. Seeing the moon in that state tends to make you very thoughtful.”
LECTURE OUT EAST
William Francis Taylor, a Montauk Observatory educator and volunteer for NASA’s Solar System Ambassador’s Program, will deliver a lecture on Friday in Bridgehampton called “Celestial Shadows” about the upcoming total lunar eclipse and its background history.
“People in the ancient world were fascinated — and often terrified — by eclipses, as they were inexplicable aberrations from the normal course of events,” says Taylor who will conclude his lecture with a viewing of the night sky via telescope. “But the quest to understand eclipses led the ancient Babylonians and Greeks to some of the most important early discoveries about the natural world. They discovered regularities that helped them predict eclipses and used clues from the eclipse to infer the shape of the Earth and the distance to the moon.”
It’s important to check out this total lunar eclipse because the next one won't be until the year 2021 — and astronomy experts say Long Island won’t have a good view like this one until 2022.
“Long Island is perfectly situated to take in the whole of this eclipse from beginning to end,” Taylor says. “The average person can enjoy it with nothing more than a pair of eyes. However, binoculars or a telescope will bring out more detail as the Earth’s shadow sweeps across the lunar surface.”
“CELESTIAL SHADOWS” LECTURE
WHEN|/WHERE 7 p.m. Friday at the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center, 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Tpke. in Bridgehampton
INFO 631-537-9735, montaukobservatory.com
TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE VIEWING
WHEN|WHERE 11 p.m. Sunday, Hofstra University’s Observatory on the 4th floor of Herman Berliner Hall, California Avenue and Huntington Place in Hempstead
ADMISSION Canceled due to inclement weather