Watch an Early Evening Eclipse on January 20
A telescope frames the lunar eclipse of January 31, 2018 in this photo taken by Malissa Ahlin of the Southern Colorado Astronomical Society 
 
This month offers a treat for even the most casual of stargazers: a total lunar eclipse, visible from start to end across North and South America! This is a potentially great eclipse for outreach enthusiasts, especially for those on the west coast, since there the entire eclipse will run its course before midnight. 

Total lunar eclipses last for hours, and totality, their most impressive segment, often lasts for about an hour instead of the handful of minutes for totality in solar eclipses. Also, unlike solar eclipses, you can safely view lunar eclipses without any special protection: a lunar eclipse is totally safe. You can view a bright full Moon safely with your naked eye and have probably done so many times in the past; a lunar eclipse only makes the Moon darker, since it's caused by Earth's shadow covering on the Moon and blocking the Sun's light. Totality in a lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon is completely enveloped by the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, known as the umbra. This is also when the Moon's color dramatically changes to a bright orange or red (commonly, and unofficially, called a "Blood Moon"), thanks to the effect of sunlight refracting through our Earth’s atmosphere, comparable to why we have colorful sunrises and sunsets.

The eclipse begins at 10:34 pm Eastern Standard Time; totality begins at 11:41 pm. Totality lasts just over an hour and ends at 12:43 am. At 1:51 am the Moon fully emerges from Earth's penumbral shadow and the eclipse is officially over.  You can plan your own observing by converting these times to your own time zone; for example, people under Pacific Standard Time will witness the start of the eclipse at 7:34 pm, and it will end for them by 10:51 pm. Refer to the NASA chart below for more eclipse timing information, or enter your city name on the Time and Date website to find exact times for your location.

Eclipse path map created by Fred Espenak at NASA for the total lunar eclipse of 2019
Eclipse path map courtesy eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov (click for larger version)

 

Are you hosting an eclipse viewing party or doing any other outreach? You can use the yardstick eclipse demonstration to show your guests how eclipses happen - both solar and lunar! More possible activities include this teachable moment activity from JPL, which can help you and your guests get the most out of your eclipse observing. There are more NASA eclipse resources for educators at this link. The Night Sky Network calendar  lists many astronomy events, and may have an eclipse viewing party near you - check it out! May you have clear skies for this lovely eclipse! 
 
Last Updated: January 7, 2019
 
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