Please click on the photos to enlarge and clarify them.
The second and final total eclipse of the moon in 2015 will occur on the evening of Sunday September 27, 2015, as seen from Oakland. To whet your appetite, below is a photo of the lunar eclipse that occurred in October 2014 (the first 2015 eclipse was clouded out from my location).
Total lunar eclipse visible from Oakland, October 8, 2014. The moon would appear somewhat smaller to the naked eye.
Since this upcoming full moon occurs only days after the autumnal equinox (a.k.a., the first day of autumn), it is often called the Harvest Moon, a term coined in the 18th century. The Harvest Moon allows farmers harvesting their summer crops to see by its light, so they can continue working in the fields into the evening hours.
Other cultures have different names for this and other full moons that occur each month. In addition to the Harvest Moon, the upcoming full moon is known as the Chrysanthemum Moon (China), the Barley Moon (medieval England), and the Singing Moon (Ireland), to name, but several.
Native American tribes have interesting names for the September full moon, as well, including the Falling Leaves Moon (Ojibwa), Moon When the Calves Grow Hair (Sioux), Moon When the Plums are Scarlet (Lakota Sioux), and Moon When the Deer Paw the Earth (Omaha).
This next total eclipse of the moon is important for several reasons. First, Oakland is favorably placed to view the total eclipse during early evening hours. You won’t have to get up in the middle of the night to see it.
The eclipse begins while the moon is below our horizon. When the moon rises at 6:55pm (it might be a few minutes later, if you have hills on your eastern horizon), it will almost be totally eclipsed. Totality begins at 7:11pm, so the moon will be very low in the east when it becomes totally eclipsed.
This is important because the moon appears larger when it is near the horizon. This is due to the moonlight having to pass through more of earth’s atmosphere in order to reach your eyes than it does when it’s high overhead. As a result, the moon’s image is magnified by the additional atmosphere the light passes through and it is more colorful because the light is refracted by the denser air; pollution in the air also tends to cause it to appear yellowish when rising or setting.
So, pay close attention to the color of the moon as it rises and enters totality. It should change considerably since the moon will likely lighten in color as it rises higher into the sky, yet darken a bit as it enters the total eclipse phase.
The event for Oakland will also begin in bright twilight, with the fully eclipsed, rising moon transitioning into darker night skies. The total eclipse will last until 8:23pm when the sky will be virtually dark. There’ll be a hint of twilight in the west at this time, but the stars will be out and shining, clouds permitting. How all these factors come into play is something we’ll all have to experience together on that September 27th evening. No two lunar eclipses are exactly alike.
Another reason why the upcoming eclipse is important is that it is an eclipse of a ‘supermoon.’ A supermoon is a full moon that occurs when the moon is closest to the earth in its orbit around our planet. A full moon occurring near perigee (the moon’s closest distance from earth) will appear to be slightly larger than a full moon that occurs at apogee (when the moon is farthest from the earth). While that is definitely cool, it’s not likely that we will notice this just by looking at the moon on the 27th. You would need to compare photos of this supermoon with other full moons to really see the difference in the apparent size of the moon’s disk.
The two photos below show totally eclipsed moons as they would be seen with the naked eye. To me, their size is the same, although they have obvious differences in the depth of color seen during totality. In fact, the image of the October 8, 2014 moon is slightly larger than the April 15, 2014 eclipsed moon because the October moon was almost a supermoon.
Total lunar eclipse visible from Oakland, April 15, 2014.
Total lunar eclipse visible from Oakland, October 8, 2014.
So, if you’re interested in seeing a slightly larger than normal full Harvest moon in mid-eclipse in the early evening, be sure to mark your calendar for Sunday September 27, 2015.
The total eclipse phase will end at 8:23pm, but the moon will continue to be partially eclipsed for another hour.
If you’re interested in learning more about lunar eclipses, please see the Keep Oakland Beautiful blog ‘Wednesday October 8th Early Morning Lunar Eclipse’ (the blog date is October 6, 2014).
Let’s keep unnecessary lights off, so we can all enjoy the total eclipse under the best observing conditions.
Keeping Oakland Beautiful is everybody’s business.
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