November 30, 2020: A penumbral lunar eclipse is visible across North American, South America, Pacific Ocean Basin, and most of Asia. As the eclipse ends Morning Star Venus sines from the east-southeast.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:58 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:21 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
A penumbral lunar eclipse is visible across most of the globe except for Africa and most of Europe. The Earth’s shadow has a dark inner circular core (umbra) and light outer ring (penumbra).
When the moon passes through the umbra, we see a spectacular lunar eclipse. The moon is dark and sometimes appears like a copper penny in the sky.
During a penumbral eclipse, the moon skims through the outer penumbra. The moon’s light dims slightly. For many casual observers, not much change in the moon’s light is noted. Photographs typically reveal the progress of the eclipse or a careful eye can see the moon’s face darkening.
This eclipse occurs during a span of 4 hours, 20 minutes. It is visible from where ever the moon is above the horizon. That’s about half the globe and any time when the moon is not at or near its New Moon phase.
The chart above shows the eastward progress of the moon through the shadow and the starting and ending times as well as the maximum eclipse.
In the Central Time Zone (GMT+6) (make adjustments for your own time zone), the bright moon enters the penumbra at 1:30 a.m. CST. The moon is nearly two-thirds of the way up in the sky in the west-southwest, for the upper Midwest of the US. From other latitudes and time zones, the moon is slightly higher or lower in the sky.
The moon slowly slips into the outer shadow ring during the next two hours. The moon is 86% darkened by 3:42 a.m. CST, the maximum eclipse, when the moon is about one-third of the way up in the sky in the west.
After maximum eclipse, the moon slips out of the ring and completely leaves it by 5:55 a.m. CST. The sky starts to brighten at 5:19 a.m. CST in Chicago before the eclipse is finished. It is low in the west-northwest.
While not a total eclipse, the event is worth viewing around the time of the maximum eclipse, from 30 minutes before the maximum time (3:42 a.m. CST) until 30 minutes after maximum eclipse.
No special equipment is needed to view the eclipse. Dress warmly and get outside to take a look. A binocular or small telescope, may help spot the difference between the portion of the moon that is within the penumbra and the part that is in full sunlight.
About an hour before sunrise, as the eclipse ends, brilliant Morning Star Venus gleams from the east-southeast sky. Venus rises about 90 minutes before sunrise.
The planet is stepping eastward in Libra, approaching the “claw stars,” Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali. The planet is 4.4° to the upper right of Zubenelgenubi and 4.0° to the lower left of Lambda Virginis (λ Vir on the chart).
Detailed Note: A penumbral lunar eclipse is visible across most of the globe except for Africa and most of Europe. In the Central Time Zone, the moon enters the penumbra at 1:30 a.m. CST. It reaches its maximum eclipse, 86% at 3:42 a.m. The moon exits the shadow at 5:55 a.m. CST. Morning twilight begins at 5:19 a.m. CST. The eclipse is in its final phase as the sky begins to brighten. This type of eclipse is a challenge to observe because the penumbra is fairly bright and the casual observer may miss it. The eclipse begins with the moon nearly 60° up in the southwest. Maximum eclipse occurs when the moon is over 30° up in the west, and the eclipse ends with the moon about 10° up in the west-northwest. Photographs typically reveal the progress of the eclipse or a careful eye can see the moon’s face darkening. The moon is at its Full phase at 3:30 a.m. CST. One hour before sunrise, Venus is about 13° in altitude above the east-southeast horizon, 4.0° to the lower left of λ Vir and 4.4° to the upper right of Zubenelgenubi.
Read more about the planets during November.
January 6, 2022: Planet Mercury nears its evening greatest elongation. It appears in the evening sky, with a crescent moon, Jupiter, and Saturn. Venus sets soon after sundown. Mars is in the southeast before sunup.
January 5, 2022: Jupiter and the crescent are 5.5° in the evening sky. Look for Mercury and Saturn with the planet-moon duo. Earlier, Venus is low in the west-southwest. Before sunrise, Mars is near Antares.
January 4, 2022: Earth is at perihelion today – it’s closest point to the sun. Mars is a morning planet, while the evening planet pack – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – and the crescent moon are in the southwest after sundown.
January 3, 2022: The moon passes Venus for the final time of this evening appearance of Venus. As night falls, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter are visible in the southwest. Mars is in the southeast before sunrise.
December 30, 2021: As the year ends and the new one opens, the night sky’s brightest star – Sirius – is in the southern sky at the midnight hour.