‘Beaver moon’ will feature longest partial lunar eclipse in centuries

Stargazers across North America can expect to be dazzled by a red-hued “beaver” full moon on Thursday night and into Friday morning, during the longest partial lunar eclipse in almost six centuries.

Lunar eclipses happen when Earth blocks the sun’s light, which usually illuminates the moon. Early on Friday, more than 97% of the full moon’s diameter will be covered by Earth’s shadow, according to Space.com.

The partial eclipse will take more than six hours, the longest of its kind in 580 years, according to Space.com. Because the moon is nearing apogee, its farthest point from Earth, it is moving particularly slowly in orbit.

All of North America will bear witness to the phenomenon, the Washington Post reported. Parts of Polynesia, Asia, South America and Australia may also catch a glimpse, Nasa said.

Lunar eclipses are easier to prepare for than solar eclipses, in that there is no need for special glasses. But you may need to rearrange your sleep schedule.

The moon is expected to enter the penumbra – the Earth’s outer shadow – around 1.02am ET, though the initial effect will be pretty faint.

Eventually the moon will enter the umbra, the Earth’s dark inner shadow. This should happen around 2.18am ET.

By around 4am ET, night owls and early birds will be able to catch the near-total eclipse – “the best viewing” of the night, according to Nasa.

The moon will probably be cast in an eerie red, “the combined light of all the sunrises and sunsets that ring our world at this particular moment”, as Space.com put it.

If you don’t feel like pulling an all-nighter, there’s no need to fret. Two total lunar eclipses are on the way, in May and November next year.

November’s full moon is sometimes called a “beaver moon”, a name Nasa suggests may allude to the time when people would set beaver traps, or when beavers were especially active, getting ready for winter.

It’s also known to some as a frost, frosty or snow moon, a reference to the change in weather.

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