On Sunday night, the first supermoon lunar eclipse since 1982 will be visible in the night sky. It is unique because it the supermoon and lunar eclipse match-up is a cosmic rarity. This the first time in 30 years that the supermoon will occur during the lunar eclipse, and it is only the sixth time since 1900.
While ancient civilizations were wary of seemingly inconsistent astrological events, such the total lunar eclipse, modern stargazers can embrace the eclipse and create a unique community viewing tradition. Places throughout the United States, such as Chicago’s Adler Planetarium and Science Museum of Virginia are hosting supermoon eclipse viewing parties to celebrate.
While there are many myths, religious prophecies, and supernatural takes on the unique event, NASA scientist Noah Petro explains a more practical approach.
“It’s just planetary dynamics. The orbit of the moon around Earth is inclined to the axis of Earth and the orbital plane of all these things just falls into place every once in a while. When the rhythms line up, you might get three to four eclipses in a row or a supermoon and an eclipse happening.”
A supermoon occurs when the moon reaches the closest point to the earth called the perigee. The moon is 31,000 miles closer to earth at the perigee than the apogee, the farthest point from Earth. The “super” portion occurs when the moon is full. This perigee full moon, a.k.a. the supermoon appears 14% larger and 30% brighter in the night sky.
A lunar eclipse occurs when Earth, the sun, and the moon align. Earth’s shadow overtakes the moon. Since the earth is directly aligned between the sun and the moon, the moon takes on a reddish tint from the sunlight refracted and reflected by the atmosphere on Earth.
According to NASA, people in North and South America, Europe, Africa, parts of western Asia, and areas in the eastern Pacific can look into the sky to see the total lunar eclipse. The eclipse starts Sept. 27, at 8:11 p.m. EST and will peak at 10:47 p.m. EST. The total lunar eclipse is 1 hour and 12 minutes long.
Supermoon eclipse enthusiasts can enjoy their cosmic celebration by having a supermoon lunar eclipse viewing party at home. Party goers can step outside to watch, no special equipment required, or view on NASA’s live stream starting this Sunday at 8 p.m. EST.
This cosmic, awe-inspiring event is inspiring a meaningful celebration across the country.
Will you be attending a cosmic viewing or hosting a lunar eclipse viewing party? Please share your plans in the comment section below.
[Photo Credit: David McNew/Getty Images]