Lunar Eclipse-Full Moon Combination Didn’t Disappoint Viewers

Stargazers weren’t disappointed on Sunday evening as they watched the full moon combine with a lunar eclipse, which left the moon shrouded in an eerie red glow.

The last Lunar eclipse/ full moon combination happened in 1982 and stargazers will not see another one until 2033. This event has only happened five times since the start of the 20th century. The full moon/lunar eclipses happened in 1910, 1928, 1946, 1964, and 1982.

A perigee full moon, or supermoon, is seen during a total lunar eclipse behind The Colorado State Capitol Building on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Denver. The combination of a supermoon and total lunar eclipse last occurred in 1982 and will not happen again until 2033. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The shadow from the earth started to dim the super moon around 8 p.m. and the eclipse started at 10:11 p.m. and lasted 72 minutes and was visible to people from North and South America, Europe, Africa, Western Asia, and the eastern Pacific ocean region. The lunar eclipse ended at 12:27 a.m.

According to NASA’s Noah Petro, the super moon is a full moon that appears larger than usual as it comes close to the earth in it’s orbit. Super moons seem to appear around 14 percent larger than a apogee full moon (which is called “minimoons) and seem 30 percent brighter in the sky.

“Because the orbit of the moon is not a perfect circle, the moon is sometimes closer to the Earth than at other times during its orbit,” said Petro in a statement to the Globe.

The moon was approximately 30,000 miles closer to the earth on Sunday night than any other time this year.

There have been four lunar eclipses, each six months apart since April of 2014. This is called a lunar eclipse tetrad.

“Because of this, almost all colors except red are ‘filtered’ out, and the eclipsed moon appears reddish or dark brown,” NASA officials wrote in a statement. “This filtering is caused by particulates in our atmosphere; when there have been a lot of fires and/or volcanic eruptions, lunar eclipses will appear darker and redder. This eerie — but harmless — effect has earned the phenomenon the nickname ‘blood moon.'”

lunar eclipse over Washington Monument
(photo credit:NASA photographer Aubrey Gemignani)

The moon did not go completely dark on Sunday night and won’t during a total eclipse because some of the sunlight changed direction as it went through the earth’s atmosphere at an angle and hit the lunar disk.

Solar eclipses and Lunar eclipses differ because in a solar eclipse, the moon comes between the earth and the sun. A lunar eclipse happens when the earth, moon, and sun all line up with the earth in the middle.

Dr Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society, told BBC News that the eclipse is an “incredibly beautiful event.”

Dr. Massey says the super moon is “slightly problematic” though because the super moon is expected to look 7-8 percent larger.

“Is a supermoon taking place at the perigee, the day before, the day after?” asked Massey. “Does a supermoon have to be a particularly close perigee, or can it be a bit further out? It’s not very well defined.”

Massey also added that a supermoon was to some extent a moveable feast compared with an eclipse, where the timing can be measured precisely. As a result, Dr Massey explained, claims of the extreme rarity of a supermoon coinciding with an eclipse were overstated.

The supermoon should also not be confused with the Moon Illusion, which causes the Moon to appear larger near the horizon than it does higher up in the sky.

A supermoon is definitely worth looking at, but a super moon total lunar eclipse is something you don’t want to miss because it doesn’t happen very often.

According to Space, NASA experts have said “Normal total lunar eclipses aren’t terribly rare; a skywatcher at any particular spot on the globe can expect to see such an event once every 2.5 years or so.”

The next total lunar eclipse will happen on January 31, 2018.

According toThe Royal Astronomical Society, a total lunar eclipse is safe for everyone to watch and you don’t need special equipment to do so.

[photo via: Dina Rudick/ Globe staff]