If your skies are clear after the Sun sets on Sunday, September 27th, be sure to head outside to see the total lunar eclipse that happens that night. This will mark the end of a “tetrad” of four total lunar eclipses spaced a half year apart that began back in early 2014. But, perhaps more importantly, it’s the last one visible anywhere until 2018.
Observers in the eastern half of North America can watch every stage of the eclipse, from beginning to end of the partial phases (31⁄3 hours in all) during convenient hours of late twilight or darkness with the Moon mostly high in the sky. If you’re in the Far West, the first partial stage of the eclipse is already in progress when the Moon rises (due east) around the time of sunset. Those in Europe and Africa see the eclipse on the local morning of the 28th.
So what’s all the fuss about? What can we expect to see? During the early phases of the penumbral portion, little will be noticeable. As the Moon moves further into the penumbra, its left side will begin to look noticeable dimmer. Once it reaches the umbra, that side of the Moon will become dramatically darker. As the disk enters entirely onto the umbra and the total phase begins, the Moon may turn a coppery or orange tint. At this point none of the Moon remains in direct sunlight; it will, however, be illuminated by sunlight refracted around the edge of the Earth by our atmosphere. In effect, the Moon will be lit by all the sunrises and sunsets happening on Earth simultaneously! And just think – you can see all this without leaving home!