It’s the headline sky event of 2015: The total eclipse of the Harvest Moon. Also called the SuperMoon. Also Called the Blood Moon. Also called the MegaMoon. Or, the Mega Harvest Moon. Whew! Basically, it’s a very cool total lunar eclipse.
Imagine: the full Moon—the Harvest Moon, no less—goes into Earth’s shadow to create a total lunar eclipse at the same hour it arrives at its closest to Earth of 2015!
The hype is simply the difference between how astronomers see it, compared to the perspective of those into folklore or New Age paranoia or Armageddon or whatever.
For example, astronomers dryly say that this Moon will be arriving at an extreme “perigee” (the point in the Moon’s orbit when it’s nearest to Earth) while the media often call such a nearby moon a “MegaMoon.”
And when a full Moon goes into Earth’s shadow, it’s called a total lunar eclipse. But many in the media instead call it a Blood Moon, even though it’s more orange like a penny than red like hemoglobin.
As for the folklore, well, the Harvest Moon is the most famous full Moon of the year. To see it go into eclipse is special—even if it’s not scientifically useful. And for it to happen while the Moon is at its biggest of the year? No matter that the “Super” Full Moon is just 7% bigger than the average Full Moon because it’s closer to Earth. Who cares if the difference is barely visible? It’s still very cool and amazing—and tides WILL be dramatically high that day and the next.
Total Lunar Eclipse Times
Watch the Moon rise next Sunday, the 27th. It will come up at sunset!
As soon as it clears any foreground hills, the Moon will look enormous. It IS big that night, but the appearance is mostly due to the famous Moon illusion, which makes every low Moon seem enormous.
Next thing to watch happens at 9:07 PMEDT, or 8:07 PM Central Time, when the moon is first touched by Earth’s shadow. For the next hour or so, an ever-bigger black “bite” is taken out of the moon.
At some point, a little before 10 PMEDT, that black will turn coppery red.
At 10:11 PMEDT, the Moon goes fully inside the shadow and the eclipse is total. You’ll notice the bottom of the moon will look brighter, with the top darker red. That’s because the top will be more centrally inside our planet’s shadow.
This totality happens at the same hour the Moon is closest to Earth of the whole year! If you like numbers, it’ll be just 221,753 miles away. That’s the center to center distance. It’s nearest surface is actually just 216,000 miles from our surface. Close!
This totality marks the moment of the full moon—which is also the Harvest Moon. A lot of milestones to enjoy, all at once.
Totality ends at 11:23 PMEDT, and the visible eclipse itself is over at 27 minutes after midnight.
If you enjoyed it, and the world didn’t end, that’s great news—because lots more is happening in the heavens in the months to come.