A Lunar ‘4-fer’ Plus Planets: Perigee; Ascending Node; Blue Moon; and a Total Lunar Eclipse!!

   Our Moon reaches full phase for the second time this month on Wednesday January 31st at 13:27 UT (7:27 am CST). According to the popular definition for a ‘Blue Moon’ the second full Moon in a month is known as the ‘Blue Moon’. This happens about every 2.5 years with this year being a little more different in that there will be a second Blue Moon month in March.

   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest distance from Earth), for this orbit on Wednesday January 30st at 9:48 UT (3:38 am CST). At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.14 Earth diameters (358,994 km or 221,204 miles) from the Earth.

      On Wednesday January 31st the full Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit and the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic. So there are two node intersections, the ascending and descending nodes.
   What do you get when you have the full Moon at a node crossing? An eclipse – in this case a total lunar eclipse. Timing for this eclipse favors viewing from the western half of the continental United States. Here is a link to download a lunar eclipse page information page (PDF) from the NASA eclipse web site
   Mid-eclipse has the darkened Moon a few degrees away from the open star cluster, M-44, commonly known as the Beehive Cluster. Both the Moon and tM-44 will fit within the field of view of binoculars.
   Here is a summary of the eclipse event starting times from the NASA Eclipse web site. My local time, CST, is UT-6 hours. An important time will be local sunrise-moonset time. For me local sunrise and Moon set time is 7:26 am CST meaning that totality will be in progress as the Moon sets. Here is a link to the Sun and Moon Data calculator web page at the U.S.N. Observatory so you may determine your local sunrise/moon set time. Here is a link to the Hermit Eclipse web site for more information about the eclipse and an interactive map showing eclipse event particulars.
P1 = 10:51 UT 4:51 CST
U1 = 11:48 UT 11:48 CST
U2 = 12:51:47 UT 6:51 CST
U3 = 14:07:51 UT 8:07 CST
U4 = 15:11:11 UT 9:11 CST
P4 = 16:08:27 UT 10:08 CST

   As the eclipsed Moon is setting in the west turn toward the south and east to see Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn plus the bright stars Spica and Antares.


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Teacher Eclipse Pictures

   Here is a collection of pictures and comments from Science Teacher members of the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) who viewed the August 21st total solar eclipse from different locations across the United States of America. The State where the picture(s) was/were taken is abbreviated to be part of the picture name – so you could scroll down to the bottom of the picture to see that.
   The caption below a picture starts the sequence of pictures from each teacher. Clicking on any picture will open it into a slide show where you can move forward or backward through the various pictures.
   From Ryan Westberry: Here’s a video I made after watching the totality in Wyoming at Green River Lakes just off the center line. I sent my drone up really high to capture the landscape while also filming our reactions on the surface- and set it all to music.
I did edit the language in the beginning of totality (overcome by that moment) but there are some “Oh S^*t” toward the end that need to be known if anyone plans on showing it. (I’m not promoting that.) I’m just wanting to share in the emotion (I was literally shaking and had tears of joy) and magnitude of watching the event and the love of the science. 🙂

   Here is one of the 360o videos I made while the school yard was filling up with families and the students.

   If you are wondering what do with any eclipse glasses perhaps donate them to the Eclipse Glasses Donation Program – organized by Astronomers Without Borders.


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Solar Eclipse Follow-Up

   Fearing for massive traffic jams we (wife Susan and granddaughter Keeley) left for Briarcliff Elementary School in North Kansas City around 8 am. Virtually no traffic as we went around the city and went across the Missouri River and river valley on Highway 169 and then up the bluff on the other side to the school. Lightning was to the north and southwest and thunder was rumbling – but the Sun was sort of shining through broken clouds.

   The sky remained partly cloudy as I set up and students were coming outside to practice how to use their eclipse glasses. The sky stayed partly cloudy until about 10 minutes before totality as the leading edge of what would soon be rain approached from the northwest as broken cumulus type clouds.

   Leading up to totality there were two distinct sunspot groups visible as this picture shows. We were fortunate that the sky stayed relatively clear leading up to totality. However the broken clouds started clumping together but the clouds did part several times allowing for us to see totality each time there was a break in the clouds.
   No post totality pictures because within a few seconds after totality ended the last of the broken clouds passed and the sky was completely overcast. As we left the school it was raining. Got home a few minutes before the eclipse ended – skies were partly cloudy – so we had one last look with eclipse glasses.

   A big shout-out to Mrs. Kate Place, her staff and students, at Briarcliff Elementary School for hosting the Eclipse on the Cliff event.
   Click here to see 360o pictures and videos. Be sure to select HD at the highest resolution possible.

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Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Full Moon – Partial Lunar Eclipse

   Monday August 7th the full Moon, just one day before it will be at descending node, passes through the Earth’s outer shadow and briefly crosses through part of the darker inner shadow, the umbra. This sets up a partial lunar eclipse.
   The Earth has two distinct shadows, an inner and much darker umbra, and the outer and fainter penumbra as this NASA graphic shows.
   This eclipse will not be visible across the continental United States.

    For additional information about this or other eclipses go to the Hermit Eclipse web site.


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

February Moon at Descending Node and a Solar Eclipse

   Sunday February 26th the new Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic. The time for new Moon phase 14:59 UT while the time for the node crossing is 8 hours earlier at 6:40 UT. Given the close times for the two events means that there will be a solar eclipse. However the Moon, because of its elliptical shaped orbit, will be at a further distance from the Earth such that it will appear smaller in diameter than the Sun appears. This means that at mid-eclipse, or totality, the Moon will not completely cover the Sun, instead there will be a ring of sunlight around the Moon. The ring of sunlight is called the annulus and so this is an annular solar eclipse. The eclipse will be visible from parts of southern Argentina and western central Africa.
annular-eclipse-ani   On my birthday in 1994 I was ‘honored’ to not only have an annular solar eclipse on that day but the eclipse path, the path of annularity, crossed right over where I live southeast of Kansas City Missouri. This animation is of the May 10th annular solar eclipse.


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

September Annular Eclipse

node-close_up   The solar eclipse on Thursday September 1st, will have been brought to us by the nodes. No the nodes are not a scientific nor a musical group, but rather the nodes represent an intersection between the orbital path of our Moon, or another planet, with the Earth’s orbital path, the plane of the ecliptic.
   There are two nodes or intersections, the ascending node and the descending node. There are two nodes because the planets as well as our Moon do not orbit the Sun on the same level, or plane as does the Earth. Their respective orbits are inclined (tilted) away from the plane of the ecliptic by varying amounts such that they will at times appear below or above the plane of the ecliptic. There will be two times each orbit around the Sun where the planet or our Moon will be on the plane of the ecliptic as it crosses moving from below setting up the ascending node or from above toward below, setting up the descending node.
   So what is the significance of the nodes? The significance is all about timing. If the time of the new Moon phase, for example, occurs at or near the time for a node crossing then there will be a solar eclipse. Remember that at this moment the Moon is on the plane of the ecliptic and is more or less directly between the Earth and the Sun. More importantly, if the times are exact or very close there will be either a total solar eclipse or an annular solar eclipse. 29april-annular_eclipse-ani   During an annular eclipse the Moon is somewhere near its apogee, or most distant point for that particular orbit. This annular eclipse happens 5 days before the Moon reaches apogee on September 6th but the Moon is still far enough away so that its apparent diameter is less than the Sun’s apparent diameter. Both are around 0.5o or 30′ in apparent diameter, however for this annular eclipse the Moon will be about 3% smaller and not be able to completely cover the Sun at mid-eclipse. Instead at mid-eclipse there will be a ‘ring of fire’, the annulus, around the Moon.
   Thursday September 1st the new Moon phase is at 9:03 UT and the Moon is at its ascending node about 6 hours later at 15:27 UT. The Moon makes first contact with the Sun at 6:23 UT; maximum or mid-eclipse is at 9:06 UT; and the eclipse officially ends with last contact at 12:00 UT.
   To sort of complete this story, if there is a solar eclipse, no matter how total or less than total, there will be a lunar eclipse two weeks away at full Moon phase. Eclipses occur in pairs so this pair will be completed with the penumbral lunar eclipse at full Moon on September 16th.Moon Grazing the Earths ShadowFull Moon on September 16th is at 19:05 UT, about 19 hours after the Moon is at its descending node, 11:57 UT September 15th. Because of the time difference, the angle the Moon follows through the Earth’s shadows does not cross the dark inner umbral shadow but rather only takes it across the less noticeable outer penumbral shadow. Unless you knew about it you may not notice a slight dimming of the reflected moonlight.

   For an outstanding web site about all eclipses including information for these two eclipses go to the Hermit Eclipse web site.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

It Is Okay To Point

clicl on picture to see it larger   During the lunar eclipse the other evening (on my side of the world) I had, for a time, the company of my daughter, granddaughter, wife, and our dog Tyler. As my daughter pointed toward the Moon and helping our granddaughter aim her binoculars I had this cosmic thought. Am I the only one wondering “if the Moon is there where is the Sun?” Obviously more or less 180o away from where the Moon is. After all this is a full Moon. So by putting the Moon behind you point toward the ground at an angle that is the same as the angle the Moon is above the horizon. That is where the Sun is at that moment.
camera-points    A look at how I had my camera setup sort of conveyed that idea as well.
   The Moon is within the constellation of Pisces near the vernal equinox, the crossing between the ecliptic and celestial equator. This means the Sun, if opposite from the Moon, would be at a similar crossing but the opposite season in the constellation of Virgo the Harvest Maiden – the autumnal equinox.

   Some pictures of the lunar eclipse around the center of my universe.


Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.