One of nature’s greatest offerings can be seen on the 8 October when the Moon fully enters the Earth’s dark shadow and experiences a total eclipse. North America and Australia/New Zealand are well placed to see at least some of this great event but Europe and Africa miss out this time.
There are different stages to each total eclipse. When the Moon leading edge or limb enters the the outer part of Earth’s shadow, that’s the start of the penumbral eclipse. The penumbral shadow is very faint and the effects it has on the Moon are very subtle and at first it’s likely nothing will be seen. Once the Moon is about half immersed then a slight darkening of the leading edge is noticeable in good conditions, increasing as the Moon moves more into the penumbral shadow. The next stage is where the true action begins with the start of the partial phase, when the Moon enters the umbra, the darkest part of Earth’s shadow. From this time onwards the night deepens as the Moon moves further into the umbra, turning more reddish-brown.
Finally just a small slither of the Moon is left outside the umbra and this disappears once totality starts, at this stage the whole of the Moon being engulfed by the umbra. The Moon should still be visible to the naked eye because sunlight is refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere onto the Moon, giving it a familiar coppery hue. On rare occasions the Moon does turn very dark during an eclipse and just how bright and colourful a Moon we see depends on how clear the air is around the Moon; the clearer the darker the eclipse. Also the Moon’s path through the umbra is a factor; just how close does it gets to the deepest, darkest central umbra. This eclipse sees the Moon pass north of the umbra’s centre line. The total eclipse ends with the Moon’s leading edge slipping back into the sunlight and gradually it will move completely out of the umbra, signaling the end of the partial phase. The eclipse finally ends with the Moon gliding serenely out of the penumbra.
All of the USA will see something of the eclipse on the morning of 8 October, with west being best. The further east you live the less you will see, with the eastern seaboard experiencing the start of totality with the Moon low on the western horizon about 30-45 minutes before sunrise depending how far south you are. Even further west in Chicago and to a lesser extent in Houston, the Moon is unfavourably low as totality starts. More comfortable views can be gotten on the west coast, with Los Angeles observers not experiencing a low Moon until towards the end of the partial phase, the Moon being above 30 degrees altitude for the whole of totality. The best place to be is Hawaii, with the Moon riding high for the whole of the eclipse from from 10.15pm (7 October) to 3.35am.
Here are the timings for major US cities;
4.18am EDT start of penumbra; Moon +29 degrees/ +39
5.18am start of partial phase; Moon +18 degrees/+26
6.27am start of totality; Moon +6 degrees/+10
6.55am maximum eclipse Miami only; Moon +6
3.18am CDT start of penumbra; Moon +38 degrees/ +50
4.18am start of partial phase; Moon + 28 degrees/ +38
5.27am start of totality; Moon +16 degrees/ +24
5.55am maximum eclipse; Moon +11 degrees/ +18
6.22am end of totality; Moon +6 degrees/ +13
7.36am end of partial; Moon sets Houston 7.26am
10.15pm HAST start of penumbra; Moon +57 degrees
11.15pm start of partial phase; Moon +68 degrees
12.25am start of totality; Moon +74 degrees
12.54am maximum eclipse; Moon +72 degrees
1.24am end of totality; Moon +68 degrees
2.36am end of partial; Moon +54 degrees
3.36am end of eclipse; Moon +40 degrees
Australia and New Zealand
New Zealand and Australia’s eastern seaboard will see the whole of the eclipse on the evening of 8/9 October with New Zealand best placed; from Sydney the Moon is only 15 degrees up after rising at the start of the partial phase. Further west, observers will miss the start of the eclipse with Perth experiencing the start of totality as the Moon rises.
Here are the timings for selected cities
Wellington/Sydney/Adelaide (local Daylight Savings Time)
9.15pm/ 7.15pm/ sun still up; start of penumbra; Moon +19 degrees/ +4 (sun -4)
10.15pm/ 8.15pm/ 7.45pm start of partial phase; Moon +28 degrees/ +15/ +5 (sun -5)
11.25pm/ 9.25pm/ 8.55pm start of totality; Moon +36 degrees/ +30/ +18
11.54pm/ 9.54pm/ 9.24pm maximum eclipse; Moon +39 degrees/ +32/ +23
12.24am/ 10.24pm/ 9.54pm end of totality; Moon +40 degrees/ +37/ +30
1.34am/ 11.34pm/ 11.04pm end of partial; Moon +41 degrees/ +45/ +38
2.33am/ 12.33am/ 12.03am end of eclipse; Moon +38 degrees/ +48/ +45
Darwin/Perth (local time, no daylight savings time in force)
6.45pm start of partial; Darwin Moon +3 degrees; Sun just set
7.55pm / 6.25pm start of totality; Moon +17 degrees/ Perth Moon rises 6.19pm
8.24pm/ 6.54pm maximum eclipse; Moon +24 degrees/ +6
8.54pm/ 7.24pm end of totality; Moon +31 degrees/ +12
10.04pm/ 8.36pm end of partial; Moon +46 degrees/ +25
11.03pm/ 9.33pm end of eclipse; Moon +59degrees/ +35
If you are successful in observing the eclipse Astronomy Now would be delighted to receive your images images; please send them in TIFF or JPEG format to gallery2014 @ astronomynow.com. NASA’s eclipses website has more information; visit http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/OH/OH2014.html#LE2014Oct08T