October 20, 2014

Astro-Events: A Close Conjunction and a Penumbral Eclipse.

Looking east Nov 27 two hours before sunrise.

(Created by the author in Starry Night).

This week sees the second eclipse of the November eclipse season and the spectacular return of the ringed planet to dawn skies.

First up is the penumbral eclipse of the Moon on November 28th. A Penumbral eclipse occurs when the Full Moon misses the dark inner umbra and instead passes through the indistinct, bright outer penumbra of the Earth’s shadow. You may not even notice the subtle shading of the Moon unless you’re looking for it.

So, why bother? Well as we’ve written about previous, it’s a fun and easy experiment to take “before,” “during,” & “after” photos of the Moon during a penumbral eclipse. You can see the difference in side by side photos! We always thought that perhaps a penumbral would be an excellent chance to test the ability to observe subtle changes in the Moon’s color spectroscopically as a calibration for exoplanet analysis.

This eclipse will be visible in its entirety from Australia and the Asian Far East; western North America will see the eclipse at moonset, while eastern Africa, the Middle East and Europe will catch the eclipse at moonrise. South America and the eastern U.S. will miss out on the eclipse. Contact times are as follows;

P1: First contact = 12:15 UTC;

Mid-Eclipse = 14:34 UTC (The Full Moon is 92% inside the penumbra)

P4: Last contact = 16:51 UTC.

The entire duration of the eclipse 4 hours 36 minutes and 5 seconds. For umbraphiles, this eclipse is part of saros series 145, member 11 of 71. This saros began on August 11th, 1832 and will finally start producing total lunar eclipses on June 14th, 2337 AD. Mark your calendars for the final eclipse of saros 145 on July 12th, 2986 AD.

No one to our knowledge is live streaming this week’s penumbral, but hey, if you are, let us know and we’ll link to your feed!

And the most common lunar eclipse question we get is; when is the next total? That’s not ‘til Tax Day in the U.S. on April 15th, 2014 (there are no total lunar eclipses in 2013!) which is visible from the Americas!

This Full Moon is also the farthest and hence the visually smallest Full Moon of 2013 at an apogee of 406,364 km distant just 4 hours after Full. This Full Moon also reaches a declination (the most northerly for this lunation) of +21.0° 24 hours after Full. Other names for the November Full Moon are the Full Beaver, Frost, or Snow Moon.

And don’t miss the AM action as Venus approaches Saturn in the dawn sky. On the morning of November 27th, Venus will pass within 40’ arc minutes of Saturn, the closest naked eye conjunction of two planets for 2012. Venus shines at a brilliant -3.9 magnitude, while nearby Saturn is just visible at magnitude +0.7, about 50 times fainter. Both rise about 2 hours before local sunrise for mid-northern latitudes. Don’t miss this fine dawn pairing!

 

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