Last Minute Guide to Tonight's Lunar Eclipse and Aurora
Here's a last quick look at the upcoming total lunar eclipse that will grace skies across the Americas Wednesday morning, May 26th. From most locations it occurs as night gives way to dawn. The table shows the local viewing times for six different time zones from the East Coast to Hawai'i. If you live in Denver, for example, the partial eclipse begins at 3:45 a.m. local time, with the moon entering total eclipse at 5:11 a.m. shortly before sunrise. Only folks living in the Pacific Time Zone and points west will see totality in a dark sky.
|Wednesday's dawn eclipse will resemble a similar eclipse from back in the late 1980s. For the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada, the moon will set while still in partial eclipse. Bob King|
Since the moon will hover low in the southwest in a brightening dawn sky, be sure to find a location with an unobstructed view in that direction. Before the moon glides into Earth's umbra (inner shadow) — which marks the start of the partial eclipse — it passes through the outer penumbral shadow.
|This map shows what you'll see depending on where you live. Eastern Seaboard skywatchers will only see the early penumbral eclipse. NASA / JPL-Caltech with additions by the author|
You probably won't notice anything until about 20 minutes before the onset of the partial eclipse, when the penumbra will be visible as a gray shading along the moon's upper left edge. In Duluth, Minn. (CDT), that would be around 4:25 a.m. As always, a pair of binoculars will enhance your view of all aspects of the eclipse, especially when the moon moves into the Earth's reddened shadow. Also, remember that tonight you can watch the full moon rise around sunset . . . and then set the next morning at sunrise just "half-full!" Click here for your local moonrise time.
Ever profligate, nature may trot out the northern lights as a warm up act for tonight's eclipse. A moderate (G2) geomagnetic storm is still in the forecast and expected to peak between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. CDT (May 25-26). The moon will wash out much of the aurora, but assuming the storm occurs, you should be able to see something. Keep an eye on the northern sky for low, bright arcs and faint plumes or rays that unfurl like May ferns.
For further details about the eclipse, please see my earlier story
Good luck and clear skies!