Apparent size of a full supermoon, or close moon, contrasted with a full micro-moon, or far moon. Image by Peter Lowenstein. EarthSky lunar calendars are cool! They make great gifts. Order now. Going fast! Who are the commentators, and what do they say?
What is a lunar eclipse?
The International Astronomical Union IAU is the group generally recognized for naming and defining things in astronomy. But the IAU has been, so far, silent on the subject of supermoons, which professional astronomers tend to call perigean full moons. Meanwhile, Fred Espenak, the go-to astronomer on all things related to lunar and solar eclipses Mr.
We might also consider the astrologer Richard Nolle. Whatever your thoughts or feelings are on astrology, Nolle is, after all, the person who coined the term supermoon.
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The term supermoon, as defined by Nolle, comes with some ambiguity. Click here to learn more about Richard Nolle. Click here to learn more about Fred Espenak. Astrophysicist Fred Espenak, aka Mr. Eclipse — a year NASA veteran and world-renowned expert on eclipses — says the January 12, , full moon is a supermoon in his post Moon in We refer you to two different supermoon tables for the 21st century to Why are their lists different?
Because the moon's orbit around Earth lies in a slightly different plane than Earth's orbit around the sun, perfect alignment for an eclipse doesn't occur at every full moon. A total lunar eclipse develops over time, typically a couple hours for the whole event. Here's how it works: Earth casts two shadows that fall on the moon during a lunar eclipse: The umbra is a full, dark shadow. The penumbra is a partial outer shadow. The moon passes through these shadows in stages. The initial and final stages — when the moon is in the penumbral shadow — are not so noticeable, so the best part of an eclipse is during the middle of the event, when the moon is in the umbral shadow.
Total eclipses are a freak of cosmic happenstance. Ever since the moon formed, about 4.
The setup right now is perfect: the moon is at the perfect distance for Earth's shadow to cover the moon totally, but just barely. Billions of years from now, that won't be the case.
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According to NASA, two to four solar eclipses occur each year, while lunar eclipses are less frequent. However, while solar eclipses can only be seen along a roughly mile wide path, each lunar eclipse is visible from over half the Earth. Total lunar eclipse : Earth's full umbral shadow falls on the moon.
The moon won't completely disappear, but it will be cast in an eerie darkness that makes it easy to miss if you were not looking for the eclipse. Some sunlight passing through Earth's atmosphere is scattered and refracted, or bent, and refocused on the moon, giving it a dim glow even during totality. If you were standing on the moon, looking back at the sun, you'd see the black disk of Earth blocking the entire sun, but you'd also see a ring of reflected light glowing around the edges of Earth — that's the light that falls on the moon during a total lunar eclipse.
Partial lunar eclipse : Some eclipses are only partial. But even a total lunar eclipse goes through a partial phase on either side of totality.
During the partial phase, the sun, Earth and moon are not quite perfectly aligned, and Earth's shadow appears to take a bite out of the moon. Penumbral lunar eclipse : This is the least interesting type of eclipse, because the moon is in Earth's faint outer penumbral shadow. During the New Moon, the Moon and the Sun rise and set at the same time.
Waxing Crescent Moon: As the Moon moves around the Earth, we would be able see more of the illuminated half, and we say the Moon is waxing. The Moon seems to growsas days go by. This phase is called the crescent moon. Quarter Moon: A week after the New moon, when the Moon has completed about a quarter of its turn around the Earth, we can see half of the illuminated part; that is, a quarter of the Moon.
This is the first quarter Moon. Waxing Gibbous Moon: During the next week, we keep seeing more and more of the illuminated part of the Moon, and it is now called waxing gibbous Moon.