Special lunar eclipse
Last summer, the Earth, sun and moon put on a dazzling show during the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, drawing thousands to this area to witness the splendid display.
Although drawing much less hype, a total lunar eclipse will appear in the Central Oregon skies early Wednesday morning, Jan. 31.
"This is a special eclipse," said University of Oregon physics professor and astronomy lecturer Dr. Scott Fisher. "I've seen this eclipse called the 'Super Blue Blood Moon' eclipse since we have an unusual set of circumstances related to this event."
The last time this happened was 150 years ago, pointed out Central Oregon Community College physics professor Robert Grossfeld.
Fisher explained that a total lunar eclipse happens when the moon enters and moves through the shadow of the Earth. Lunar eclipses do not occur every month because the orbit of the moon is tilted a bit with respect to the orbit of the Earth. Because of this, the moon only moves through the shadow of the Earth a couple times a year on average.
So what makes the Jan. 31 total lunar eclipse so special?
"First, it is a 'super' moon because during this eclipse, the moon is about as close to the Earth as it ever gets in its orbit," Fisher explained. "By the way, the moon will still be roughly 250,000 miles from the Earth!"
This is being called a "blue" moon since it is the second full moon in the month of January. The first full moon was Jan. 1. A blue moon happens once every two years or so.
Fisher said it is called a "blood" moon since the moon will look a deep orange or reddish color when the eclipse is happening. This occurs because a little bit of sunlight can still make it through the atmosphere of the Earth — even when the moon is behind the Earth with respect to the sun.
"Viewing a lunar eclipse is easy and very cool! All you have to do is to go outside to a place where you can see the moon in the sky, and you will be able to watch the eclipse happening in real-time," Fisher said.
Unlike solar eclipses, observing a total lunar eclipse does not require any special equipment, although Grossfeld said the best way to view the eclipse is with binoculars or a small telescope. Lunar eclipses are safe to see with the naked and unaided eye.
The Oregon Observatory in Sunriver will be open for viewing from 3:30 to 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 31 if the weather allows.
"The weather will be the big factor, as the current forecast calls for cloudy on Tuesday and clearing into the night," Grossfeld said. "Let's hope that the weather holds."
This particular eclipse is going to be mostly for really early risers as the peak of it happens at 4:50 a.m. The first 'bite' the shadow will take from the moon will be at about 3:45 a.m. that morning.
According to the website Time and Date, using Bend coordinates, the penumbral eclipse begins at 2:51 a.m. Jan. 31 when the Earth's shadow begins touching the moon's face.
By 3:48 a.m., the partial moon eclipse begins and the moon begins to get red.
The total eclipse begins at 4:51 a.m., resulting in a completely red moon.
At 5:29 a.m. the maximum eclipse occurs, where the moon is closest to the center of the shadow. The total eclipse ends at 6:07 a.m.
By 7:11 a.m., the partial moon eclipse ends. The moon will be close to the horizon at this point, so viewers must make sure they have free sight to the west-northwest.
At 7:28 a.m., the moon sets below the horizon and will not be directly visible.
By 8:08 a.m., the penumbral eclipse ends below the horizon.
The last total lunar eclipse that could be seen in Oregon was on Sept. 28, 2015. However, Grossfeld pointed out that it was just a regular lunar eclipse during the super moon.
Another total lunar eclipse will grace the Oregon skies in January 2019.
"Even if you don't get out of a toasty bed to see the eclipse, please check out the great photos of the event that will appear online later that morning," Fisher said. "Or, hang on until January 2019 when that eclipse will happen at about 10 p.m."