ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — I’ve been an early riser now since I began my tenure on News 8 at Sunrise five years ago. There’s just something so rewarding about being up very early in the morning before the sun even comes up and accomplishing so much before lunchtime.
On the other hand, I also know what it’s like to be a night owl discovering the beauty of watching a sunrise or a moonset before “turning in” for a few hours.
Either way, no matter how your body clock functions, if you’re a sky-watcher and appreciate looking up in search of some “heavenly happenings”, then, maybe you should try setting an alarm for Wednesday morning, May 26, as at least a portion of a lunar eclipse will be visible here in Rochester.
WHAT IS A LUNAR ECLIPSE? ARE THERE DIFFERENT KINDS?
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves into Earth’s shadow. This can only occur when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are almost perfectly or very closely aligned with Earth between the other two, and only on the night of a full moon. The type and length of a lunar eclipse depend on the proximity of the moon to a certain part of its orbit.
There are different kinds of lunar eclipses: total eclipses, partial eclipses, penumbral eclipses, etc.
On May 26, 2021, Rochester will have what’s called a penumbral lunar eclipse. A penumbral lunar eclipse takes place when the Moon moves through the faint, outer part of Earth’s shadow, the penumbra.
Two celestial events must happen at the same time for a penumbral lunar eclipse to occur. The first is that the Moon must be in the Full Moon phase. Box checked there for May 26th.
Secondly, the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon must be nearly aligned, but not as closely aligned as during a partial eclipse. That box has also been checked.
The last total eclipse of a year’s closest full moon happened on September 28, 2015. The photo at the top of the page, taken by John Kucko, was of this very event! BUT…will it look like that here in Rochester? Before I answer that, let’s go over the basics of what’s happening with this “supermoon eclipse” next week.
WHAT IS A SUPERMOON? WHAT IS A BLOOD MOON?
Because next week’s full moon is 2021’s closest full moon of the year, and therefore the biggest and the brightest, it is referred to as a “supermoon”. The technical term for it being closest to Earth in its orbit allowing it to be the biggest and brightest is known as “perigee”. (The opposite of perigee by the way is apogee)
The term “blood moon” refers to a full moon during its total eclipse phase. When a viewer is in that path of totality, the moon appears to take on a bloodish red hue.
Since this is a full moon, it is assigned a name from the traditional moon nomenclature. The full moon for May is known as “The Flower Moon”, given the abundance of flowers in bloom for this time of year.
SO, WILL I BE ABLE TO SEE THIS ECLIPSE IN MY BACKYARD?
You will. Sort of. This type of eclipse is not as dramatic as other types of lunar eclipses and is often mistaken for a regular Full Moon. But with a little luck, and some clear sky, if you look closely, you should be able to make out faintly SOME of the eclipse as it happens.
This entire process will take 53 minutes and 27 seconds with only some of that process visible. If you want to give a “viewing” any kind of chance, you’ll have to be punctual, and you’ll need some clear sky.
Our window of opportunity to see this penumbral lunar eclipse starts at 4:47 a.m., with peak at 5:37 a.m.. That peak is just four minutes before moonset at 5:41 a.m. Rochester will be “right on the edge” of seeing anything, as shown in the map above. The further west one goes, the better the chance of you seeing anything at all.
If you miss out or feel disappointed by this eclipse, you WON’T have to wait very long for your next chance at a total eclipse of the year’s closest full moon. We will have a MUCH better view of a very deep partial lunar eclipse that will take place on November 19th. At that time, 98 percent of the Moon’s disc will be in the umbral shadow, and all aspects of the eclipse will be visible across the nation from coast to coast.
So…maybe we just consider this a practice round!
Either way, remember, there’s always something to see in the heavens….if you just keep looking up! Happy sky-watching!