Blog

Incoming! Notable Lunar and Solar Eclipses

3/09/22

Incoming! Notable Lunar and Solar Eclipses

By Drew Gilmore, Planetarium Manager

 

Total Lunar Eclipse: May 15, 2022

On the night of Sunday, May 15, 2022, the Moon will turn a dramatic red color, during a total lunar eclipse. If the weather is clear, it’ll be something worth staying up late for!

A lunar eclipse happens when the Moon moves through Earth’s shadow. During a total lunar eclipse, direct sunlight is completely blocked from the face of the Moon.

The eclipse will last several hours. As the eclipse progresses, you'll see Earth’s shadow gradually move across the Moon’s surface. As totality begins, the Moon will appear to change color to a coppery orange or deep red. This is caused by sunlight scattered through Earth’s atmosphere onto the lunar surface. The color can be affected by atmospheric conditions such as recent volcanic eruptions on Earth.

After totality ends, the Moon will gradually move out of Earth’s shadow.

Lunar eclipses can only occur during a Full Moon, which is when the Earth is between the Sun and the Moon. They don't happen at every Full Moon because the Moon's orbit around the Earth is tilted by a few degrees. That means that Earth's shadow usually passes a little above or below the Moon. Only once in a while does Earth's shadow directly fall on the lunar surface. An almost-total lunar eclipse, covering almost 98% of the Moon, occurred in November 2021. The last total lunar eclipse was May 26, 2021, visible mostly over the Pacific Ocean.

Weather permitting, the eclipse on May 15, 2022, will be visible to almost everyone in North and South America.

--- MAY 15, 2022 TIMELINE---

  • Partial eclipse begins: 9:27 pm CDT
  • Total eclipse begins: 10:29 pm CDT
  • Maximum eclipse: 11:11 pm CDT
  • Total eclipse ends: 11:53 pm CDT
  • Partial eclipse ends: 12:55 am CDT

Lunar eclipses are perfectly safe to view, and you don’t need any special equipment. Go out and take a look, even if just for a few minutes at a time, but definitely don’t miss totality! While you're out, bring along our monthly star chart to help you find other nighttime sights, and don’t forget to tag #adventuresci / @adventuresci in your social posts.

You may see sources that list the lunar eclipse as occurring on May 16. That is correct in Universal, or Greenwich Mean Time. For local times in the United States, the eclipse begins on the 15th. You may also see references to this eclipse starting at 8:32 pm Central Time. This is the beginning of the penumbral eclipse, which is when the very faint outer shadow of the Earth begins to fall on the Moon. The penumbral part of the eclipse is barely noticeable at all. The darker, easily visible umbral eclipse begins to cross the Moon’s face at 9:27 pm CST.

Meanwhile, mark your calendars, because there are two major solar eclipses coming up for viewers in North America. The first is on October 14, 2023, and this one is an annular solar eclipse, which means that it would be total, except that the Moon will be a little too far away from the Earth to completely cover up the Sun. Observers in just the right spot will see the Sun form a ring, or 'annulus', around the dark face of the Moon. To see that annulus, most people will have to do some traveling. Viewers in Nashville will only see a partial eclipse: the Moon will take a big bite out of our star, covering up just over 60% of the Sun's face.

Then, an even bigger event happens on April 8, 2024. This total solar eclipse’s path will stretch from Mexico to Maine. Nashville isn't in the path of totality this time, but it's close. Almost 95% of the Sun will be blocked from Nashville, leaving just a tiny sliver visible. It will be an astonishing, amazing view... but it won't be as good as totality. If you are able to make the trip, find a spot along the path of totality for that breathtaking view of the Sun's outer atmosphere, the corona, only visible during a total solar eclipse.

Remember: it's never safe to look directly at the Sun's surface, whether it's during an eclipse or not. Even if it doesn't feel like it's hurting, the intense light can permanently damage your eyesight. Use only proper solar filters or projection techniques to view the Sun safely. The only time it's safe to look is during a total eclipse, when the Moon is completely blocking the face of the Sun. That's the only time you'll be able to ever see the corona with your own eyes, and it's a stunning sight.

Come see Eclipse: The Sun Revealed in the Sudekum Planetarium in March and April 2022, to learn more about both lunar and solar eclipses, and how to view the Sun safely.

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