Observing Events You Can Do At Home!
There is a lot of astronomy you can do at home without the need for a telescope or detailed knowledge of astronomy!
Lunar Eclipse January 20/21, 2019
A lunar eclipse is when the Moon is seen to travel through the shadow of the Earth. This can occur only a few times a year, but depends on your placement on the Earth to see it. A good lunar eclipse is when the Moon can travel through the central, darker shadow of the Earth, called the umbra. This will darken, and redden, the Moon. Since we have an atmosphere, the Sun’s light travels through this and allows a deep red light to hit the Moon. It is the same reason the Sun looks red during a sunset. Notice the shadow as it passes across the Moon. It is curved. This is proof that the Earth is round like a ball!
This lunar eclipse will be seen by all of North and South America as you can see in the diagram from NASA. At P1, the Moon will just touch the edge of the Earth’s weaker shadow called the penumbra. During the time from P1 to U1, it will be difficult to see any change in the bright, full Moon. U1 to U4 will see the real action and you’ll notice the Earth’s shadow easily. U1 will be at 3:34 UT (or 10:34 p.m. EST on January 20, Sunday night). Greatest eclipse is at 12:12 a.m. EST on January 21, early Monday morning. UT is not that school in Knoxville, but Universal Time, based at Greenwich, England, 5 time zones to the east. We, in East Tennessee, are in the Eastern Time Zone.
To see any lunar eclipse, just look up! Your eyes are enough. If you have binoculars or a telescope, use them if you like. Binoculars give such a wide field of view, it is always a thrill to see the full Moon looking dark red and also see the far away stars in the background. The only limit is the weather. If you think it may be too cold to go out, you can easily see a lunar eclipse through a window. Please don’t let that be a reason to not see this very cool celestial event.
Photo tip: Celestial photos always look better by having something in the foreground like a tree to give perspective. You’ll need a longer exposure than normal, but try!