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Moon rises in eclipse
on Wednesday

MARK ARMSTRONG
ASTRONOMY NOW
Posted: 14 June 2011


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There is a total eclipse of the Moon on the late evening of 15 June. This eclipse has a long total phase (100 minutes) with the last one to exceed this duration in June 2000. Unfortunately this one is not very favourable for us in the UK as the Moon is painfully low in the south-eastern sky. The further south and east you are in England then the more favourable the observing circumstances are.



Click here for larger image.

Wherever you live in the UK then the start of totality is not visible and it’s only from the extreme south-eastern parts of England where the Moon rises mere minutes ahead of the time of greatest eclipse at 9.13pm (BST). From the majority of England and Wales the second half of totality will be visible, provided observers have or can get access to a completely unobstructed south-eastern horizon. For Londoners, the moon rises fully in eclipse at 9.13pm and by the end of totality at 10.03pm it has only heaved itself almost five degrees above the horizon. On the south coast of England, those in Southampton have almost identical circumstances but further west in Plymouth the Moon doesn’t rise until 9.24pm and by the end of totality the moon is less than four degrees up. Heading into the Midlands, observers in Birmingham see the Moon rise at 9.26pm and has barely reached three degrees altitude at the end of totality. In Manchester the Moon rises at 9.33pm and will be just over two degrees above the local horizon. Further north in England and Northern Ireland the vast majority of totality will be over before the Moon rises, whilst those in northern Scotland will miss totality entirely.


Click here for larger image.

Despite the adverse observing circumstances it’s worth keeping an eye out for your local weather forecast and then judging the degree of transparency close to your local south-eastern horizon nearer to eclipse time. Binoculars are always recommended for any lunar eclipse as they are so easy to use and their light grasp will enhance any colour and of course, will magnify the view. For this eclipse they will be essential as it is possible that the totally eclipsed moon could entirely disappear from view if there is local light pollution and/or atmospheric haze with all the usual murk close to the horizon. It will also be extremely difficult to really appreciate the colours of the eclipsed moon. The sight of a ruddy-red, totally eclipsed moon riding high in the sky is one of the most beautiful and memorable sights in Astronomy. If you are lucky enough to have a very transparent sky then northern regions of the Moon will probably appear brighter as the more southerly regions lie deeper in Earth’s shadow. Those observers in part of the world most favoured to see all of this eclipse could see the Moon as orange or brick red, through to deep brown and no two eclipses are the same.

After totality the partial phase starts with the left limb of the Moon brightening in the far less noticeable penumbral shadow. In London the Moon will still only be seven or so degrees up at half partial phase around 10.35pm; in Edinburgh it is a mere three degrees up. The partial phase ends with the last umbral contact at 11.03pm and by this time the moon is 10 degrees up in London and five degrees in Edinburgh. The penumbral phase ends just after midnight.

Despite the far from ideal situation, if you have clear skies with a degree of decent transparency, then why not get out there and observe this eclipse. You may be pleasantly surprised. The next total lunar eclipse takes place on 10 December, with the Moon once again in eclipse at moonrise. For more information on lunar eclipses visit this NASA site: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEdecade/LEdecade2011.html

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