A total lunar eclipse expected early Sunday evening

A total lunar eclipse expected early Sunday evening

Much of Northern California is expected to be front row for a celestial spectacle on Sunday evening – one that is not expected to peak until minutes after sunset.

A total lunar eclipse – an event where the Earth casts its shadow on the moon – will grace the West Coast skies on Sunday in the hours immediately after sunset, causing the moon to spin a haunting red hue for an hour and half. .

Clouds can obscure the show for parts of the Bay Area — especially areas along the coast, including San Francisco, according to the National Weather Service. But the skies are expected to open up a little more inland, offering an excellent chance of catching the first of only two total lunar eclipses this year.

“If you can find a spot where you can see the moon rising near the horizon, you should have a pretty good view,” said Gerald McKeegan, an astronomer at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland. “And of course, as he goes up in the sky and the sky gets darker, he will get even better.

Here’s a look at what to expect on Sunday night.

WHAT IS A LUNAR ECLIPSE?

Total lunar eclipses are celestial events where Earth moves between the sun and the moon – aligning just so that Earth casts its shadow on its largest satellite, covering it completely. During such eclipses, the lunar surface takes on an eerie tinge of red, a sight often referred to as a “blood moon.”

According to NASA, the moon’s pink glow is related to the different wavelengths of light as it travels from the sun through Earth’s atmosphere. Similar mechanisms are at play during sunrises and sunsets every day on Earth. And the more dust or clouds in Earth’s atmosphere, the redder the moon will appear, the space agency said.

“Sunlight is refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere. And you basically get a red sunset all around the circumference of the Earth, as seen from the moon,” McKeegan said.

It should be noted that this lunar eclipse will occur during a so-called “Super Moon”. This is when the moon is at its closest point to Earth – otherwise known as its perigee – which makes it appear 14% larger in the night sky.

WHEN WILL THIS HAPPEN?

In the United States, only people along the East Coast and parts of the Midwest will be able to see the full lunar eclipse. That’s because the eclipse will begin at 6:32 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, long before the moon even rises on the west coast.

But the timing should still be fine for northern California watchers.

The moon is expected to rise in the Bay Area at 8:05 p.m., by which time it will already be almost completely enveloped by Earth. Sunset is expected to follow a few minutes later at 8:12 p.m.

“It’s going to be very different from what you’re used to seeing the moon when it rises,” McKeegan said.

Totality – the point where the moon is entirely obscured by Earth’s shadow – will begin at 8:29 p.m., according to NASA. The moon will reach its darkest point at 9:11 p.m., although totality will continue until 9:53 p.m. After that, the moon will gradually continue to brighten as it emerges from behind the planet.

A partial eclipse – where the moon is entirely in the prenumbra, or Earth’s outer shadow – will continue until 10:55 p.m.

And the moon will return to its normal bright state about an hour later at 11:50 p.m., when it emerges from Earth’s prenumbra, according to NASA.

HOW TO SEE IT?

Simply look east at sunset for the moon to rise in the constellation Libra.

Unlike a solar eclipse – where the moon moves between Earth and the sun, casting a shadow over the planet – no special glasses are needed to enjoy the spectacle. And unlike meteor showers, lunar eclipses aren’t significantly dulled by the constant din of city lights.

WILL THE WEATHER COOPERATE?

Not for everyone, unfortunately.

Residents of San Francisco, Oakland and along the coast will likely face cloudy skies during the eclipse, said National Weather Service meteorologist Roger Gass.

But conditions should improve further inland, including San Jose, Livermore or Concord, he said. Residents can also try climbing above 1,500 feet to view the eclipse above the clouds.

“It’s really going to depend on your exact location,” Gass said. “Unless you’re on the immediate coastline, I think you’ll get a pretty decent view.”

WHAT IF I MISS THIS ECLIPSE?

Lunar eclipses usually occur two or three times a year. And you won’t have to wait long for another chance to see the next one.

The next such eclipse is expected to occur late November 7 and early November 8, when a total lunar eclipse will grace the skies of Asia, Australia, the Pacific Ocean and North America. and the South.

The West Coast should have a particularly prime opportunity to view this event, with the entire lunar eclipse expected to appear over California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Idaho, according to NASA.

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