It’s time to get your binoculars and camera phone ready. This Sunday, Jan. 20, a total lunar eclipse will take place and National Louis University’s student-led Science Club wants you to see it.
“We in Chicago, as well as half the world, will be able to see it if it’s clear outside Sunday night,” said Roy Kaelin, assistant professor of science for NLU’s Undergraduate College.
As the full moon passes through the shadow of Earth, it gets eclipsed and may take on a creepy-cool red color. More about that later.
NLU students are invited to join the Science Club, which meets every Wednesday from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. in Room 6042 (Chicago campus). They’re developing a usable water filter for overseas villages that need clean water. They also recently visited Angelic Organics, an organic farm, and joined a Criminal Justice class at the county morgue to witness autopsies.
When to look?
Starting by 8:36 p. m. on Sunday evening, the brightness of the full moon will begin to fade as the moon passes into the shadow of Earth.
- Full eclipse begins by 11:41 p. m., 1/20
- Maximum eclipse occurs by 11:12 p. m., 1/20
- Full eclipse ends by 11:43 p. m., 1/20
- The moon emerges completely from Earth’s shadow by 1:48 a. m., 1/21.
What to see?
The most intriguing part of a lunar eclipse is witnessing the moon fully immersed in the deepest part of Earth’s shadow. At that time, the bright light of the full moon is completely gone, and, the face of the moon glows a reddish color that may range from copper orange to blood red to deep crimson.
A lunar eclipse is completely safe to watch. It’s even better to see through a binocular or a small telescope, but no special equipment is required. You can take pictures of the lunar eclipse with your cell phone, but you have to view the actual eclipse to see what shade of red the moon will turn.
Why does it happen?
From the Science Club, here’s the science behind the lunar eclipse:
- We see the moon (and sun, too) appear to rise in the east and set in the west, because our Earth rotates once every day.
- But, the moon, our orbiting neighbor, also revolves around Earth once every month.
- So, as seen from Earth, the moon appears, night after night, to move farther east.
- That is, as viewed from Earth, the moon orbits from west to east.
- During a lunar eclipse, the moon passes directly into the shadow of Earth.
- So, as the moon moves, you see the Earth’s outer shadow, called the penumbra, encroach slowly across the face of the moon from the left to the right.
- Then, as the moon enters the deepest part of Earth’s shadow, called the umbra, that’s when the moon gradually turns a fiery shade of red. Quite a sight!
- That red color seen on the moon is caused by the sun’s light, which filters around Earth through its atmosphere, falls on the moon, and reflects back to us on Earth.
- Finally, as the moon continues in its orbit, it will pass out again through the penumbra and completely emerge from Earth’s shadow.
The total lunar eclipse is a natural phenomenon only seen from Earth and from nowhere else in the entire solar system. For additional information, visit this link.
Is it worth it to stay up late to watch the total lunar eclipse? Since the next one to be visible in our part of the world won’t occur until May 26, 2021, the Science Club feels it’s an event not to be missed.