November 8, 2022: A total lunar eclipse is visible across the Americas and the Pacific Ocean basin. Mercury is at its superior conjunction. Uranus is visible with the lunar eclipse.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:33 a.m. CST; Sunset, 4:39 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Overnight a lunar eclipse is visible across the western hemisphere. The eclipse occurs when a Full moon moves through Earth’s shadow.
The moon does not move exactly along the ecliptic – the plane of the solar system define by Earth’s orbit around the sun. The lunar path is inclined about 5° compared to that reference line. Throughout the month, the moon is either above or below the ecliptic and crosses it twice during the lunar orbit.
Normally, when the moon crosses the ecliptic, nothing occurs. If it crosses near the sun, a solar eclipse occurs. The shadow of the moon races across Earth’s surface.
Earth constantly casts a shadow into space. Nighttime is Earth’s shadow. The sun is blocked and we see the stars.
When a Full moon crosses the ecliptic, a lunar eclipse can occur. It is visible across about half Earth’s surface, wherever the lunar orb is above the horizon. This occurs during early morning hours today.
Earth’s shadow is a set of two concentric shadows. In the darker core, known as the umbra, Earth completely blocks the sunlight. This shadow is not completely dark because sunlight – in particular red and orange – is bent by our atmosphere and it can gently illuminate the moon – creating a red-orange color. This is the reason for the popular name “blood moon.”
The moon’s darkness or redness is difficult to predict before the eclipse. It depends on changing atmospheric factors. An eclipse appearance can range from one that is very dark and the moon is nearly invisible to one that is copper-red or orange. It can only be categorized after the event. The May 2022 eclipse was rated as “Deep red or rust colored eclipse.”
In the outer region, the penumbra, considerable sunlight still shines. When the moon is there, the lunar globe seems to retain its considerable brightness.
The lunar eclipse occurs in front of Aries, reaching its maximum at 4:59 a.m. CST. At this hour the moon is only 17° up in the west from Chicago. The total eclipse and best part lasts from 4:16 a.m. to 5:42 a.m., ending with the moon only 9° up in the west-northwest.
At the beginning of totality, the eclipsed moon is 12.1° to the upper left of Hamal, the brightest star in Aries, 16.0° below the Pleiades, and 2.1° to the lower right of Uranus. (Uranus is at opposition tomorrow. The moon in eclipse makes its identification easier this morning.)
The moon sets before the eclipse finishes. Observers in western North America see the entire eclipse process. At maximum eclipse, the moon is at the zenith in the Pacific Ocean, west of Hawaii.
Here are the events of the eclipse with the location as viewed from Chicago.
|Moon enters penumbra – not much change is noticed||2:00 a.m.||48°||WSW|
|Moon enters umbra – partial eclipse begins||3:09 a.m.||36°||WSW|
|Total eclipse begins||4:16 a.m.||24°||W|
|Twilight begins||4:58 a.m.|
|Middle of Eclipse||4:59 a.m.||17°||W|
|Moon leaves umbra – partial eclipse occurs||5:42 a.m.||9°||WNW|
For the moon’s altitude, 0° is the horizon, 30° is one-third of the way up, 45° halfway up, and 90° overhead.
Unlike a solar eclipse, no special equipment is needed to view a lunar eclipse. It can be viewed through a binocular or telescope. Photographic exposures of several seconds with a tripod-mounted camera catches the moon and background stars.
In another sky event, although not easily visible, Mercury moves behind the sun – superior conjunction. As viewed from north of the solar system, Mercury, the sun, and Earth are in a line. Mercury quickly moves into the evening sky.
Notice on the chart Venus’ proximity. The two are not far apart as viewed from Earth. Mercury catches Venus on the 21st, but this conjunction occurs in bright sunlight and Mercury sets only 18 minutes after sundown. They are together again at the end of next month.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
An hour before sunup, during the morning’s lunar eclipse, Mars is about halfway up in the west and nearly 40° to the upper left of the moon. It is picking up westward speed above the Bull’s horns, 3.1° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri. The planet passed the star yesterday for the second of three conjunctions. Mars is 5.0° to the left of Elnath, the northern horn.
Mars passes between the horns in five nights and passes Elnath, on the 18th.
Mars rivals Sirius in brightness although the color difference may seem to show that Mars is noticeably dimmer.
Venus is slowly moving into a darker evening sky, only setting 13 minutes after the sun.
The moon is back in the evening sky at one hour after sundown. Its brightness seems to wash the dimmer stars from the sky. Bright Jupiter is to its upper right in the southeast. It is retrograding in front of a dim Pisces starfield.
The star Deneb Kaitos – meaning “the tail of the sea monster” – is below Jupiter, about one-third of the way from the horizon to the planet.
Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, but brighter than most stars, is about one-third of the way up in the southern sky. It is still east of the south cardinal point at this hour. The planet is moving eastward very slowly against the stars of Capricornus that are whitewashed by the moon’s glare.
Fomalhaut – meaning “the mouth of the southern fish” – is low in the southeast, to the lower left of Saturn and higher than Deneb Kaitos.
Mars rises into the evening sky about two hours after sundown. Two hours later, the planet and the bright stars of Taurus, Aldebaran and Elnath, are visible. The Red Planet is about 20° up in the east-northeast and about 30° to the lower left of the bright moon.
At this hour, Jupiter is in the southern sky and Saturn is in the southwest.
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