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2019, January 20: Chicago’s View of A Lunar Eclipse

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Lunar Eclipse (NASA Photo)

Update:  January 20, Lunar Eclipse Photo

On January 20, observers across North America see a total lunar eclipse.  Unlike a total solar eclipse that is only visible for a few minutes from a narrow strip of ground, a lunar eclipse is visible everywhere the moon is above the horizon.  That’s from half the planet.  Another difference is that the light of a lunar eclipse is safe to view.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is near its full phase and it moves through our planet’s shadow.  The entire eclipse occurs over several hours.  The best part of this eclipse occurs for about an hour.  So if there’s cloudy weather, the eclipsed moon might be visible through a break in the clouds.

Our planet’s shadow is composed of a dark inner core where the moon is totally eclipsed.  This is called the umbra. Ringing the umbra is a shadow where sunlight still somewhat shines.  When the moon is in this penumbra, the moon dims only slightly.  Without special equipment to measure the moon’s brightness, most of us will not likely see much change.

The eclipse begins on the evening of January 20 and concludes early the next morning.  Here are the events of the eclipse as seen from Chicago:

The next lunar eclipse visible from mid-America is on July 5, 2020 when the moon only passes through Earth’s penumbra.  Another similar penumbral eclipse occurs on November 30, 2020.  Chicago sees part of a total eclipse on the morning of May 26, 2021, but the moon sets before totality sets in.

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