Category Archives: Events

The moon, the earth’s shadow, and some clouds…

We are enormously grateful to the brilliant teams around the world who supported our live coverage of yesterday’s total lunar eclipse on timeanddate.com. Alas, it seemed like most of the night-time side of earth was covered in cloud… However, we obtained some truly spectacular images from timeanddate’s mobile observatory in Ouarzazate, Morocco, and the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.

Enormous thanks to Cleyciane Da Costa Maciel and the team at the European Space Agency office in Kourou, French Guiana; Theo Wellington and the fabulous folks at the Warner Park Nature Center in Nashville, Tennessee; and Diego García Lambas and his wonderful colleagues at the Instituto de Astronomía Téorico y Experimental (IATE) in Córdoba, Argentina.

The fascinating rhythm of the sun and the moon

Fascinating rhythm
You’ve got me on the go
Fascinating rhythm
I’m all a-quiver
Fascinating Rhythm (George & Ira Gershwin, 1924)


The motions of the sun and the moon across the sky will create a fascinating rhythm in 2019, producing five different kinds of eclipses. There will also be a rare-ish transit of Mercury.

The first new moon of the year (Sunday 6 January) will produce a partial solar eclipse across most of north-east Asia. Two weeks later, the first full moon of the year (Sunday 20/Monday 21 January) will produce a total lunar eclipse visible across North and South America, Europe and the western half of Africa. (In the US, this eclipse falls on the Sunday night of the Martin Luther King Jr holiday weekend, making it a prime-time event…)

Jumping forward six months — when the earth, moon and sun become aligned once again — the new moon of Monday 2 July will produce a total solar eclipse. Totality will be visible along a narrow corridor (about 150 km or 90 miles wide) that begins in the South Pacific and ends close to Buenos Aires in Argentina (map below). The following full moon on Tuesday 16/Wednesday 17 July will produce a partial lunar eclipse across every continent except North America.

2 July 2019 total solar eclipse (timeanddate.com)

Another six-month jump brings us to the year’s final eclipse: an annular solar eclipse on Thursday 26 December. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is too far from the earth to cover the sun completely: the result is an annulus, which is the shape of a ring (picture below).

Image: Juan Carlos Casado

During the new moon of 26 December, this ‘ring of fire’ will be visible along a narrow path stretching from Saudi Arabia to Guam in the North Pacific (map below).

26 December 2019 annular solar eclipse (timeanddate.com)

One more thing: over the course of five-and-a-half hours on Monday 11 November, the planet Mercury will cross the face of the sun. Transits of Mercury are rare-ish events — they happen about 13 times a century — and can only be seen with a telescope equipped with a telescope solar filter.

I’ll be part of the team at timeanddate.com providing live coverage of the 20-21 January lunar eclipse, 2 July solar eclipse, and 11 November transit of Mercury.


IMPORTANT: NEVER look at the sun with the naked eye.

Sublime eclipse images on timeanddate.com

Once again, timeanddate.com put together an amazing global team to cover the lunar eclipse on Friday night/Saturday morning. Company CEO Steffen Thorsen provided sublime telescope images from Santorini in Greece; Matt Woods at the Perth Observatory, and Jerome Jooste at the Old Republic Observatory in Johannesburg, gave us absolutely stunning pictures from Australia and South Africa; and Anne Buckle, Coby Wijnands and the rest of the phenomenal team at timeanddate.com HQ in Stavanger, Norway, pulled everything together – including some gorgeous graphics – in spectacular fashion.

Below is a clip at the end of totality, where Anne and I talked about the turquoise band, and Christopher Columbus…

Longest lunar eclipse until 2123

We are entering an eclipse season…

The moon’s orbit around the earth is slightly tilted. This means that – for most new moons and full moons – the earth, moon and sun are not aligned, and there is no eclipse.

About every six months, however, the moon’s tilted orbit lines up with the earth’s orbit around the sun. This period lasts for 34 days or so, which means we always have two or three eclipses during this time. In this current eclipse season we have two solar eclipses – which happen at new moon – and one lunar eclipse – which happens at full moon.

The solar eclipses take place near the beginning and end of the season, when the earth, moon and sun are still not perfectly aligned. This means they are small, partial eclipses that are only visible from near the poles. They occur on July 13th and August 11th (maps below, from timeanddate.com).

Partial solar eclipse, July 13th 2018
Click here for full details

Partial solar eclipse, August 11th 2018
Click here for full details

The lunar eclipse, on the other hand, takes place bang in the middle of the season, when the moon, earth and sun are aligned precisely. This gives us a big, total eclipse. In fact, if we throw in the fact that it’s a micromoon (where the moon is slightly further away and moving more slowly than usual), and the earth is at aphelion (its furthest point from the sun, which means its shadow is larger), it will be the longest total lunar eclipse for the next 105 years…

The lunar eclipse takes place on the night of July 27th/28th, and will be visible across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and parts of South America (map below). We’ll once again be providing live coverage on timeanddate.com, with live images from Santorini (Greece), Johannesburg (South Africa) and Perth (Australia) – weather and gremlins permitting, of course ^_^

We are tremendously grateful to Matt Woods and the team at Perth Observatory, and Jerome Jooste and his colleagues at the Old Republic Observatory in Johannesburg.

Total lunar eclipse, July 27th/28th 2018
Click here for full details


Did you know (1)…?
During the total phase of the eclipse, the moon will turn a reddish colour as light is filtered and bent through the earth’s atmosphere.

Did you know (2)…?
On the night of July 27th, the moon will appear to be next-door to Mars in the night sky (image below, from EarthSky).

Image: EarthSky

Did you know (3)…?
On the same day, Mars will be at opposition, which is near its closest approach to the earth. In other words, the red planet will be shining brightly next-door to a red moon. So get reddy for a spectacular sight. (Sorry, I mean, get ready.)

Image: timeanddate.com


 

Red moon over Perth on timeanddate.com

The highlight of our live coverage of yesterday’s total lunar eclipse on timeanddate.com were the jaw-droppingly beautiful images from the Perth Observatory: a huge, huge thank you to Matt Woods, Roger Groom, Ken Stranger, Francesca Flynn and the rest of the brilliant team in Western Australia.

Below is the segment of our live coverage that covered the time of maximum eclipse.

Thank you also to Ed Krupp and his wonderful team at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, who provided us with stunning images from a northern hemisphere perspective.

Also, many thanks to Susumu Takahashi at the Dynic Astropark near Kyoto. Sadly, the weather was not kind to us here in Japan, but Takahashi-san did manage to capture this photo through the clouds near the time of maximum eclipse:

The next total lunar eclipse will be around six months from now on July 27th/28th.


 

Countdown to the January 31st total lunar eclipse

On January 31st 2018 – for the first time time since September 2015 – the moon, earth and sun will become aligned and produce a total lunar eclipse. Across Asia and Australia the event will be visible after sunset; in North America, on the other side of the international date line, it will be visible before sunrise.

Once again, I’ll be part of timeanddate.com’s live coverage of the event. I’ll be at the Dynic Astropark, about 50 km north-east of Kyoto. We’re also hoping to have live feeds from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, and the Perth Observatory in Western Australia.


UPDATE (January 29th): here at our location in Japan, the weather forecast for January 31st is not good…