Tag Archives: eclipse

January 2019 Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse Expected

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Northern Lights Now – On the night of January 20-21 sky watchers anywhere in the Americas and Western/Northern Europe are in for a treat as they have an opportunity to watch a full lunar eclipse. Weather permitting, viewers should be able to see the moon slowly edge into the Earth’s shadow, then turn red as it enters an hour long phase of full eclipse.

This eclipse also aligns with a super moon. That means the Moon is closer than normal or “at perigee.” The Moon has an elliptical orbit, so there are times when it is closer and and times when it is farther from Earth. Occasionally perigee aligns with a full moon or a new moon, when it does, the full moon is labeled “Super.”

Tides are higher and lower than normal during perigee because the Moon is closer and exerts more gravitational force on the oceans. Tides are also higher (and lower) during full moons because the gravity of the Earth and Sun pull together. When these align, as they will be this weekend, it is called a King tide.

You may also see this full moon referred to as a Wolf Blood Moon. Each of the full moons throughout the year are given names. The January full Moon is often referred to as the Wolf Moon. It’s easy to imagine wolves howling at the moon in the dead of winter when clear dry air will make their howls carry farther.

Why does the Blood Moon Turn Red?

Great Question – once the moon is fully in the shadow of the Earth, the only light reflecting off the Moon has been refracted through the edges of the Earths Atmosphere. The atmosphere filters out most other wavelengths or colors of light. Red is the majority of the light that reaches the Moon and reflects back, so the eclipsed Moon will look Red (or Pink, or Orange). This is actually the same process that makes sunsets look red on Earth. In fact, you can imagine that if you were standing on the Moon during a lunar eclipse, the sun would “set” behind the Earth, then you would see a ring of sunset that is mostly red from every part of the horizon of Earth. Yep – Cool!

Why does it always seem like an eclipse happens during a full moon?

Because it does! The only time the Moon can fall into the shadow behind the Earth is when it is exactly opposite the Sun. That can only happen during a full Moon because the Moon is full when it is opposite the Sun. Similarly, Solar eclipses can only happen during new moons, when the moon is directly between the Sun and the Earth. In a solar eclipse, the Moon casts it’s shadow on a portion of Earth. If you are in that shadow, you see a full eclipse.

It’s actually slightly more likely you will see an eclipse if it falls during perigee. During perigee, the Earths shadow is slightly bigger at the Moon. That makes for a longer transit, and more of the Earth will be in a position to see the Moon completely eclipse.

Happy Hunting!

Stuck in an office for the Eclipse Without Eclipse Glasses? Improvise!

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Northern Lights Now – At my office in Burlington Vermont, we wanted to view the eclipse but didn’t have eclipse glasses… so this is what we did.

1) Styrofoam lunch container

Styrofoam lunch container
Styrofoam lunch container

2) Mechanical pencil
Mechanical Pencil
Mechanical Pencil

4) Poke a hole

Poke a pinhole in the container
Poke a pinhole in the container

5) Align the hole with the sun and the dark Surface

Align the hole with the sun onto a dark surface
Align the hole with the sun onto a dark surface

6) ECLIPSE!!!!

Now we can look at the eclipse!
Now we can look at the eclipse!

Three Space Weather Phenomena To Watch For During the 2017 Solar Eclipse

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Northern Lights Now – The August 21st Great American Eclipse promises to be the most photographed eclipse on record.
Millions of people will be able to see either a partial or full eclipse just by walking outside and using their eclipse glasses to observe the Sun.

Viewers lucky enough to be in the path of totality will see the Sun as a dark circle surrounded by the bright corona. They will see familiar winter star constellations. Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury will be visible.

There are three particularly interesting and exciting Phenomena that eclipse chasers may see in the coronal that are relevant to aurora hunting.

CMEs

At Northern Lights Now we frequently post images from the LASCO C2 and C3 chronographs. These are images of the Sun from satellites that by simulating eclipses with a round disk is extended by an arm in front of the lens. The disk blots out the Sun allowing the camera to capture the corona. These images allow space weather scientists to see the plasma that erupts from the Sun during solar flares and filament eruptions.

CME launches off the Sun visible in LASCO
CME launches off the Sun visible in LASCO

If there is one of these Corona Mass Eruptions (CMEs) during the time of the eclipse, ground based viewers (you!) will be able to see the eruption in the corona during totality. It won’t look like the dramatic image above, because that is several hours of eruption compressed in a timelapse. You will see the equivalent of one or two frames of the timelapse during the time you are in totality. But when you share you photos on Twitter, you will be able to combine them with the images other viewers take, and together we may be able to build a time lapse of ground based eclipse imagery that may show a CME in progress.

Up until about a week ago, the chances for a CME during totality were low. The Sun is currently approaching its minimum activity of solar eruptions in the 11 year cycle. But several active sunspot regions, where these eruptions originate, have grown over the last 2-3 days. The odds of a CME during totality are still low, less than 20%, but they are high enough it is worth keeping track of the active sunspot regions as they grow.

Solar prominences on the limbs

When active filaments and solar prominences are on the limb, they are easy to see and identify because they have stark contrast with the blackness of space behind the Sun. They appear clearly in AIA 304 imagery as they float above or lift off the surface of the Sun.

A prominence lifts off the East limb in timelapse animated GIF of AIA 304 from SDO
A prominence lifts off the East limb in timelapse animated GIF of AIA 304 from SDO

Similarly, during an eclipse these features appear visibly as bright structured areas in the corona to ground based viewers. If there happen to be prominences on the limb at the time of totality, this is a treat to see.

Sun Grazing and Sun Diving Comets

Several times a month comets are pulled into the gravity of the Sun and they burn up as they fly by or crash into the Sun. Sun grazers fly by and become visible as they melt and have a tail while Sun diving comets crash into the Sun never to be seen again. Aurora hunters are familiar with these as they often show up in LASCO imagery. If there is a comet hurtling towards the Sun and it has a tail during the time of totality, it will may be visible.

Sun diving and Sun grazing comets to not have any impact on solar storms or our ability to see aurora. They are a familiar feature to aurora hunters and the eclipse provides a unique opportunity to see them during the day.

********** Eclipse viewing Warning ************

DO NOT Look at the eclipse without protection. You will burn your retinas by staring at the Sun during the eclipse. Sun Glasses are not protection. You need SO and CE certified viewing glasses to look at the sun during any phase of the eclipse that is partial. You can make a pinhole viewer to watch the eclipse if you do not have safe glasses. Please don’t end up in the hospital, please don’t end up blind.

Happy Hunting!