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Upcoming “Beaver Moon” Eclipse Will be the Longest Lunar Eclipse in 580 Years

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 1:18 PM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - The last time a lunar eclipse lasted this long, kings and queens still reigned all across Europe. Cargo ships still used sails, and the horse and buggy was the most advanced land transportation available. Electricity and gasoline engines wouldn’t become available for over 400 more years.

On November 19 of this year (this Friday), residents of the ArkLaMiss - and most of the rest of North America - will be treated to an extra-long partial lunar eclipse. From start to finish, the eclipse will be a whopping 3 hours and 28 minutes - the longest since the year 1441.

It will also be the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century.

Here’s what you need to know to observe this incredible event:

1. The Eclipse Starts Late (or Early, if You’re a Morning Person!)

For those of us in northeast Louisiana and southern Arkansas, the lunar eclipse will start at 1:18 a.m. on November 19. It will peak at 3:02 a.m., then last until 4:47 a.m. You’ll want to make sure to look to the west, as the moon will be in that portion of the sky when the eclipse is taking place.

This lunar eclipse - otherwise known as the "Beaver Moon Eclipse" will be the longest lunar...
This lunar eclipse - otherwise known as the "Beaver Moon Eclipse" will be the longest lunar eclipse in centuries.(KNOE)

2. The Eclipse Has Several Stages

All told, the moon will spend about 6 hours being affected (in some way or another) by Earth’s shadow. The lunar eclipse itself, however, is defined as the time during which the moon is passing through the umbra (or the portion of space behind Earth where the sun’s light is totally blocked).

But before the moon gets to the umbra, it will need to first pass through the penumbra - the portion of space where the sun’s light is only partially blocked. Because the sun’s light is so intense, it will be difficult to notice the difference as the moon moves deeper and deeper into the penumbra. The only visual effect will likely be a slight darkening of the moon’s surface. This darkening may become visible to us as early as 12:54 a.m..

Here is a timeline of Friday's eclipse. Please note that the true eclipse begins at 1:18 AM and...
Here is a timeline of Friday's eclipse. Please note that the true eclipse begins at 1:18 AM and ends at 4:47 AM.(KNOE)

As the moon begins to enter the umbra, a much more drastic transition will occur. A dark shadow will begin to fall over the surface of the moon, slowly creeping across the surface of our nearest celestial neighbor. This dark shadow will be visible as early as 1:18 a.m.. The shadow will grow larger and deeper over the next hour and a half, ultimately reaching its peak at 3:02 a.m..

During the peak of the eclipse, 97.4 percent of the moon’s surface will be shrouded in shadow. But it won’t be a solidly dark shadow, as you might expect. Rather, the surface of the moon will appear as a rusty red. That is because the moon will still be getting the sunlight distorted by Earth’s atmosphere.

There are two parts to the earth's shadow: the umbra and the penumbra. Only the umbra has total...
There are two parts to the earth's shadow: the umbra and the penumbra. Only the umbra has total blockage of the sun's light.(KNOE)

For the same reason we have orange or red sunrises and sunsets, the moon will appear red. It is essentially experiencing the light of all our combined sunrises and sunsets at once! All that light will still be dim, however, and the moon may be ten thousand times dimmer than it was before the eclipse.

After 3:02 a.m., the moon will gradually begin to slip outside the umbra. More and more of its surface will turn back to the whitish-gray we’re familiar with. Finally, at 4:47 a.m., the eclipse will officially end. The penumbra shadow may still be visible through 5:10 a.m., but it’s going to be very hard to observe.

3. The Eclipse is Technically a Partial Eclipse

For all the talk about this being the longest lunar eclipse in centuries, it may surprise you to know that this is going to be a partial eclipse. A “total lunar eclipse” only occurs when 100% of the moon is shrouded in the Earth’s umbra. For Friday’s eclipse, 2.6% of the moon will still remain outside the umbra when the eclipse is at its peak. That will cause the blood-red moon to appear much brighter on one end than the other.

4. Why is the Eclipse so Long?

Over half a millennium has progressed since there has been a lunar eclipse this long. Why is this one so special?

The answer lies in the moon’s orbit. The moon’s orbit around Earth is slightly elliptical, and its distance from us varies by as much as 25,000 miles! During Friday’s partial eclipse, the moon will be at its furthest point from Earth in its orbit. The further away an object is, the slower its orbit becomes. The moon will then essentially just “stroll” through the height of the eclipse, stretching the entire event out.

This rare combination of orbit and eclipse is why this event will last so long.

5. The Weather Should be Great... but a Bit Chilly

If you’re planning to head outside in the middle of the night to see the moon change colors, you will be relieved to know that skies are predicted to be mostly clear here in the ArkLaMiss! A clear, calm, and cold night should provide us with ideal observing conditions.

Temperatures during the eclipse will likely be in the 30s to near 40 - dress accordingly!
Temperatures during the eclipse will likely be in the 30s to near 40 - dress accordingly!(KNOE)

Temperatures during the time of the eclipse will likely be in the mid 30s to near 40, so you will want to bring along the coats and blankets if you’re going outside to observe.

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