A rare, long-duration lunar eclipse is happening early Friday, if you’re up for it
The sun, earth, and moon will be nearly perfectly aligned in such a way that earth’s shadow will cover nearly the entire moon for several hours.
This is the season for magnificent sunrises and sunsets, and if you’re up for it, what you’ll see on the full moon early Friday essentially will be all the sunrises and sunsets in the world on a blood-red moon during the near-total eclipse, NASA says.
“It’s really a dramatic event,” says NASA research scientist Noah Petro.
What is so extraordinary about this one is that it will last for several hours, as the Earth, sun, and moon will be aligned in configuration that won’t be repeated until 2659, he said.
Much of the planet will have the opportunity to witness this event; unfortunately, untold millions are likely to sleep through some or all of it.
In Philly, the show will start about 2 a.m., perhaps inauspiciously since the forecast calls for about 60% cloud cover. But they are expected to clear considerably by 4 a.m., which would be the peak time, said Petro.
The sun, Earth, and moon will be nearly perfectly aligned in such a way that Earth’s shadow will cover nearly the entire moon for several hours.
The event will be of such long duration because Earth’s shadow is so enormous, said Michael Brown, professor at Swarthmore College’s physics and astronomy department.
When the shadow becomes dominant, NASA says, the moon turns “blood red” as “the darkened terrestrial disk is ringed by every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all at once.”
While the sky is darkened, some of the Leonid meteors, which are peaking this week, might become visible.
While the Leonids aren’t among the more prolific showers of the year, once in a while the showers can become very intense if Earth happens to pass through a dense part of the debris trail left by the comet Temple-Tuttle.
“It’s very random,” says Brown.
In any event, sunlight will dominate the skies after 6 a.m., with the sun rising at 6:51.
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Incidentally, the moon is one place you probably wouldn’t want to be while this is happening. NASA’s Petro says that the lunar surface temperature will drop from a balmy 180 degrees Fahrenheit to a rather frosty 189 degrees Fahrenheit below zero once the shadow crosses the moon.
As for whether the eclipse is worth losing sleep over, Petro says yes, “it will be worth it.” Then again, he added, everything these days is livestreamed somewhere.