BY | April 25, 2013

It is a great occasion for many sky watchers. Partial lunar eclipse tonight is shortest of 2013. Here are details like time and how to watch it live

This is a full moon night and we are going to observe a short lunar eclipse today. Though the lunar eclipse will last no more than half an hour, making it the shortest lunar eclipse during the whole of the year 2013, there is very high level of interest among people who are regular sky-watchers and those who are not.

In many countries, the level of interest is usually high as this is also related to some special religious rites on the occasion. Many Hindu temples in many countries are going to down their shutters for hours to protect themselves and their followers from any evil that may come along with the rays of lunar eclipse. For sky watchers, it is an occasion for them to see moon in a different perspective during the eclipse and they are certainly overenthusiastic to watch it when it is at its best. The good thing is the fact that weather is perfectly clear tonight in most places so watching it is not going to be a difficult task.

But as it will be there for just 35 minutes, it will be like touch and go and the people who forget it even for half an hour will have to wait for months to watch it.  To be true, the eclipses, whether lunar or solar, has always remained a source of mystery, fascination and even fear, despite taking place several times since the evolution of the Universe. Not only is the eclipse capable of garnering the interest of the astronomers but also the common man.

There are several importances attached to it. The partial lunar eclipse taking place in tonight is considered to be the third shortest lunar eclipse of the 21st century, lasting 27 minutes, has generated a lot of interest among the people. There have been several myths and urban legends associated with the lunar eclipse, especially when total lunar eclipses turned the moon blood-red, an effect that terrified people who had no understanding of what causes an eclipse and therefore blamed the events on this god or that. Grounding the myths, as per the scientific calculations, a lunar eclipse can occur only at full moon. A total lunar eclipse can happen only when the sun, Earth and moon are perfectly lined up, anything less than perfection creates a partial lunar eclipse or no eclipse at all. Since the moon’s orbit around Earth lies in a slightly different plane than Earth’s orbit around the sun, perfect alignment for an eclipse doesn’t occur at every full moon. A total lunar eclipse develops over time, typically a couple hours for the whole event.

To be true, on the occasion of lunar eclipse, the Earth casts two shadows that fall on the moon during the period of eclipse: While the full, dark shadow is termed as Umbra, the partial outer shadow is called penumbra.. The moon passes through these shadows in stages. The initial and final stages — when the moon is in the penumbral shadow —are not so noticeable, so the best part of an eclipse is during the middle of the event, when the moon is in the umbral shadow. We can consider ourselves lucky in the sense that at present the moon is at the perfect distance for Earth’s shadow to cover the moon totally, but just barely. Billions of years from now, that won’t be the case, since ever since the moon came into existence about 4.5 billion years ago, it has been inching away from our planet (by about 1.6 inches, or 4 centimeters per year). The lunar eclipse takes place in several forms: total lunar eclipse in which the Earth’s full (umbral) shadow falls on the moon. The moon won’t completely disappear, but it will be cast in an eerie darkness that makes it easy to miss if you were not looking for the eclipse. During the partial lunar eclipse  the sun, Earth and moon are not quite perfectly aligned, and Earth’s shadow appears to take a bite out of the moon.

As far as the eclipse like today’s is concerned, the partial solar eclipses occur when only the penumbra (the partial shadow) passes you by. In these cases, a part of the sun always remains in view during the eclipse.  How much of the sun remains in view depends on the specific circumstances. Further an Annular solar eclipse is similar to total eclipses in that the moon appears to pass centrally across the sun, but it’s too small to cover the disk of the sun completely. Because the moon circles the Earth in an elliptical orbit its distance from Earth can vary from 221,457 miles to 252,712 miles.  But the dark shadow cone of the moon’s umbra can extend out for no longer than 235,700 miles; that’s less than the moon’s average distance from Earth. During such an eclipse, the antumbra, a theoretical continuation of the umbra, reaches the ground, and anyone situated within it can look up past either side of the umbra and see an annulus, or “ring of fire” around the Moon.

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  • Debra Fauvor

    And just what TIME?