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An eclipse of the moon progresses above Cochrane, Alta., on Jan. 20, 2019.Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press

Sky watchers can expect a rare treat on Sunday night when the full moon plunges through Earth’s shadow, transforming its bright silvery disk into a rusty red orb.

What is a total lunar eclipse?

The result – a total lunar eclipse – is a visually striking reminder of the celestial dance performed by the Earth-moon system, which occasionally causes one partner to block sunlight from reaching the other. Sunday’s eclipse will be visible across most of Canada wherever skies are clear. Viewers located in the eastern and central parts of the country can watch the eclipse from start to finish while those west of Ontario will see the moon rise with the eclipse already in progress.

Unlike solar eclipses, eclipses of the moon can be observed without special eye protection. Binoculars are a useful aid for watching the slow motion wave of darkness engulf the moon and then withdraw over approximately three and half hours.

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When is the lunar eclipse?

Sunday’s lunar eclipse will start to become noticeable shortly after 10:28 p.m. ET when the eastern edge of the moon first makes contact with the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, known as the umbra. The partial phase of the eclipse then proceeds until 11:29 p.m. ET, when the moon’s disk is entirely inside the umbra.

By 12:12 a.m. ET (9:12 p.m. PT) the eclipse, at its midpoint, will be visible in most parts of western Canada except Yukon. The second half of the eclipse will be a reverse of the first, with moon moving through and then gradually re-emerging from the umbra.

Even at deepest eclipse the moon is not likely to disappear entirely. Despite being cut off from the sun as a source of illumination, the lunar surface will still receive a spray of sunlight that is refracted toward it by Earth’s atmosphere. And because longer, redder wavelengths of light are the most easily refracted, the moon typically sports a coppery red glow during the total portion of a lunar eclipse.

SUNDAY NIGHT'S LUNAR ECLIPSE: WHEN TO WATCH

The eclipse will be visible anywhere in the world where the moon is in the sky. Watch for the moon to turn from white to orange once it is completely immersed in the umbra – the darkest part of Earth’s shadow.

STAGES OF

ECLIPSE

Total eclipse

will last

85 minutes

N

E

W

Partial

eclipse

begins

10:28 p.m.

ET/7:28

p.m. PT

Totality

begins

11:29 p.m.

ET/8:29

p.m. PT

Totality

ends

12:54 a.m.

ET/9:54

p.m. PT

Partial

eclipse

ends

1:56 a.m.

ET/10:56

p.m. PT

Mid-eclipse

12:12 a.m. ET/

9:12 p.m. PT

TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE

Earth blocks sunlight usually reflected by moon,

creating partial (penumbra) or total (umbra) shadow

Sunlight

Sun

Earth

Moon

Umbra

Penumbra

Not to scale

the globe and mail, sources: graphic news; sky&telescope;

NASa; The Old Farmer’s Almanac

SUNDAY NIGHT'S LUNAR ECLIPSE: WHEN TO WATCH

The eclipse will be visible anywhere in the world where the moon is in the sky. Watch for the moon to turn from white to orange once it is completely immersed in the umbra – the darkest part of Earth’s shadow.

STAGES OF

ECLIPSE

Total eclipse

will last

85 minutes

N

E

W

Partial

eclipse

begins

10:28 p.m.

ET/7:28

p.m. PT

Totality

begins

11:29 p.m.

ET/8:29

p.m. PT

Totality

ends

12:54 a.m.

ET/9:54

p.m. PT

Partial

eclipse

ends

1:56 a.m.

ET/10:56

p.m. PT

Mid-eclipse

12:12 a.m. ET/

9:12 p.m. PT

TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE

Earth blocks sunlight usually reflected by moon,

creating partial (penumbra) or total (umbra) shadow

Sunlight

Sun

Earth

Moon

Umbra

Penumbra

Not to scale

the globe and mail, sources: graphic news; sky&telescope;

NASa; The Old Farmer’s Almanac

SUNDAY NIGHT'S LUNAR ECLIPSE: WHEN TO WATCH

The eclipse will be visible anywhere in the world where the moon is in the sky. Watch for the moon to turn from white to orange once it is completely immersed in the umbra – the darkest part of Earth’s shadow.

STAGES OF ECLIPSE

Total eclipse

will last

85 minutes

N

E

W

Partial

eclipse

begins

10:28 p.m.

ET/7:28

p.m. PT

Totality

begins

11:29 p.m.

ET/8:29

p.m. PT

Totality

ends

12:54 a.m.

ET/9:54

p.m. PT

Partial

eclipse

ends

1:56 a.m.

ET/10:56

p.m. PT

Mid-eclipse

12:12 a.m. ET/

9:12 p.m. PT

TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE

Earth blocks sunlight usually reflected by moon,

creating partial (penumbra) or total (umbra) shadow

Sunlight

Sun

Earth

Moon

Umbra

Penumbra

Not to scale

the globe and mail, sources: graphic news; sky&telescope;

NASa; The Old Farmer’s Almanac


How often does this happen?

Total eclipses of the moon can occur as often as twice a year but they do not always favour the same part of the globe. The next total lunar eclipse, which occurs on the night of Nov. 7, will be best seen from Western Canada. After that event, Canadians will have to wait until March, 2025, for the next opportunity.

A total lunar eclipse will grace the night skies this weekend, providing longer than usual thrills for stargazers across the Americas.

The Associated Press


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