The last in a series of four total lunar eclipses a half year apart is probably the best if all, as far as viewing from North America. If skies are clear, you can look forward to seeing the eclipse this Sunday evening, Sept. 27. You won’t even have to set the alarm clock unless you retire very early!
As seen from the Eastern Time Zone, partial eclipse begins at 9:07 p.m. You will soon begin to notice what looks like a bite out of the left side of the bright full Moon. Watch as this “bite” grows, making the full moon appear as a crescent.
The moon enters total phase at 10:11 p.m. Mid-eclipse is at 10:48 p.m. and total ends at 11:23 p.m.
For about an hour and a half, what was a brilliant, white full moon will likely look something like an autumn pumpkin complete with the face of the Man in the Moon.
Total lunar eclipses vary from one to the next. Some are relatively bright, with the moon appearing light orange. Others are darker, with a brick red hue.
Colors vary; some liken the eclipsed moon to a peach with yellow on one end and a graduating shade of orange- minus the fuzz.
Rare eclipses are so dark, you can barely see the moon.
They vary because of changing aspects of the dust in Earth’s atmosphere. Remember, what you are seeing is the Earth’s natural satellite plunging into the dark shadow cone cast by the Earth. Sunlight filters around the edge of our planet, all the way around, giving a colorful sunrise and sunset to those on Earth and a dimmed and reddened light faintly illuminating the moon. If you were standing on the moon, the Earth would appear like a ring of fire, the lunar soil under you feet dim and red.
After total eclipse, the partial phase resumes, with the “bite” on the other side as the moon exits the shadow cone. Partial eclipse is over at 12:27 a.m.
The main part of Earth’s shadow is called the umbra; it extends far into space tapering to a point. Surrounding the umbra is a lesser shadow called the penumbra. Shading on the Moon from the penumbra is harder to detect. The moon enters the penumbra at 8:40 p.m. and leaves at 12:55 a.m.
Notice how dark the sky becomes during a lunar eclipse. The full moon normally washes out all but the brighter stars; in a total eclipse, the fainter stars come out like there was no moon in the sky at all. Also notice the curved shape to the shadow. You are looking at direct evidence that the world is round - in case you needed reassuring!
Also of interest: This will be the largest eclipse you can ever see! The moon happens to arrive at its closest point to the Earth in its orbit (“perigee”) only 59 minutes before mid-eclipse. The moon appears 13% larger at perigee than it does at its furthest point (apogee).
If you live farther west than the Eastern Time Zone, the eclipse will occur earlier, with the moon lower in the sky.
All you need to enjoy the eclipse are your own eyes. Just look up! There is NO DANGER to your eyes to look at a lunar eclipse, unlike looking at a solar eclipse without special precautions.
Binoculars make the lunar eclipse appear even more vivid. A small telescope gives a spectacular view, allowing you to observe the subtle, changing hues and the faint stars near the moon. Watch as the moon gradually shifts, covering these stars in eclipses of their own.
Try and get a picture of the eclipse. If it turns out well, please send it to me at news@neagle.com. Pictures will be considered for a photo gallery with the next column. Please mention where in the country you saw the eclipse, your name and anything you wish to add!
In the early morning, about an hour before sunrise, you can see brilliant Venus in the eastern sky this fall. Look to the lower right for Mars, which is reddish and much dimmer, and close to a bright blue-white star (Regulus). To the lower left of Mars is the bright planet Jupiter. Watch as their positions shift morning to morning.
Keep looking up!

Peter W. Becker is managing editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, Pennsylvania.