Supermoon Lunar Eclipse
As astronomy is a hobby & keen interest of mine, I eagerly awaited the lunar eclipse. This lunar eclipse had more publicity due to the fact that it coincided with the appearance of the so-called Supermoon.
Astronomers don’t really prefer to call it a supermoon.
The term would be perigee new moon or perigee full moon.
When the moon change in its orbit and is closest to earth, this is called a perigee (within 98 per cent closest to the earth).
When it is a full moon and it is 98 per cent of its closest orbit (perigee) to the earth this is commonly called a supermoon. There can be 4-6 supermoons in a year.
There won’t be a perigee full moon in 2017 because the full moon and perigee won’t realign again (after November 14, 2016) until January 2, 2018. The next supermoon lunar eclipse will be in 2033.
As I have just retired from my work career, I could fortunately stay up Sunday evening to the early hours of Monday morning. 🙂 I had my trusty camera ready and waited in the garden. weather conditions were ideal, as not too cold after midnight with some wisps of white cloud that conveniently disappeared; so a clear dark sky for the show to begin!
Around 2am, the top left of the moon was starting to be covered by earth’s shadow as it crept across the moon’s surface.
Lunar Eclipse begins – Photo by PH Morton
Totality and complete earth cover happened at around 3 am.
Total Lunar Eclipse (Totality) – Photo by PH Morton
A lunar eclipse totality lasts much longer than the spectacular solar eclipse that is over in a few minutes. I watched the eclipse for 3 hours. The moon’s surface facing the earth becomes an amazing coppery colour. Some cultures call it a ‘Blood Moon’ because of the reddish hue and regard it as a bad omen.
Of course the colour is caused by the sunlight being scattered through the earth’s thick atmosphere so the moon is never blacked out like the sun becomes briefly in a solar eclipse at totality. The moon does not have an atmosphere anywhere as thick as the earths to scatter any light.
At sea level on Earth, we breathe in an atmosphere where each cubic centimetre contains 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules; by comparison the lunar atmosphere has less than 1,000,000 molecules in the same volume.
It’s faint trace of atmosphere contains molecules including helium, argon, and possibly neon, ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide. There is no oxygen as abundant on earth.
I managed to get some reasonable photographs as the eclipse was finishing around 5am.
Lunar Eclipse ending – Photo by PH Morton
During my eclipse vigil in our back garden into the small wee hours as we say, a curious urban fox came close to me to see what I was up to then wandered off!
I could hear an owl hooting in the distance and field mice moving in our Blackberry bush/tree. The garden is indeed a fascinating place at night 🙂