Finally—a lunar eclipse worth setting the alarm for! We’re talking about a nearly total lunar eclipse (97% coverage!) on November 18–19, 2021. Wait until you see it—brightly lit polar cap on an otherwise red sphere. Get times and info on how to see it from Bob Berman.
This lunar eclipse is especially welcome because in the past few years we’ve had a bizarre series of penumbral lunar eclipses—the kind where the Full Moon doesn’t change its appearance. We’ve been stuck with one after another of these nothingburger events, or non-events, and when a genuine visible lunar eclipse finally did happen this past May, it wasn’t visible from virtually the entire US and Canada.
But next Thursday night, our luck changes. We’ll finally get the real deal.
However, what’s unusual in the case of this partial eclipse is that it will be up to 97% covered by the Earth’s shadow—almost total! Don’t feel any disappointment that the Moon will not get totally 100% eclipsed. Sure, when it comes to solar eclipses, totality is everything. It’s super important because that’s when all the fantastic stuff happens. But not with the Moon.
At 97% coverage, this is an unusually deep partial eclipse and almost total. A tiny bit of sunlight will strangely hit a small piece of the Moon. Yet wait till you see it. It’ll look like a brightly lit polar cap on an otherwise red sphere.
Very cool. This will deliver all the visceral dramatic punch you could want.
What Time is the Lunar Eclipse?
This lunar eclipse is worth setting the alarm for! And this is where another oddity kicks in: since it’s after midnight in most of the U.S. and Canada, it’s technically happening early the morning of Friday, November 19, so make sure you set the alarm on the correct night.
For the next hour and a half the Moon will get increasingly blacked out, until at very nearly 4:00 AMEST (or 1:00 AMPST), the eclipse will reach its maximum. So that’s the sweet spot, the early hours of Friday morning, November 19, with the Moon now lowish in the west and looking distinctly reddish since Earth casts a red shadow into space.
You can certainly set the alarm nearer to the time of the eclipse’s peak. Whenever the alarm rings, look out a window facing the southwest.
Times of Eclipse Phases
Thursday, November 18, to Friday, November 19
Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 10:02 PM Nov. 18 PST; 1:02 AM Nov. 19 EST
Partial Eclipse Begins: 11:19 PM Nov. 18 PST; 2:19 AM Nov. 19 EST
Greatest Eclipse: 1:03 AM Nov 19 PST; 4:03 AM Nov 19 EST
Partial Eclipse Ends: 2:47 AM Nov 19 PST; 5:47 AM Nov 19 EST
Penumbral Eclipse Ends: 4:04 AM Nov 19 PST; 7:04 AM Nov 19 EST
Below you can see the times along with eclipse phases, showing in Central Time (CST)!
Longest Partial Lunar Eclipse in 1,000 Years
And here’s a final oddity. This is the longest partial lunar eclipse within a stretch of 1,000 years. It’s over 6 hours in total. The last time a partial lunar eclipse lasted that long was in the year 1440, when the Incas were building Machu Picchu. The next time will be on February 8, 2669.
Image: The last time a partial lunar eclipse lasted that long was in the year 1440, when the Incas were building Machu Picchu.
The main reason this eclipse is super-long is because of the positions of the Moon and Earth. In this case, the Moon is at its furthest point from Earth in its orbit (apogee). At a further distance, the Moon travels more slowly; thus, it takes longer to pass through Earth’s shadow and remains covered for a longer duration.
Lunar Eclipse Best Seen From North America
Happily, the eclipse will be visible from many locations across the globe the night of November 18–19! This year, that covers ALL of North America through South America; it’s also visible from Australia and parts of Europe and Asia. See the map below, which shows visibility.
Image: Visibility of partial lunar eclipse. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
So, set the alarm for 4 and it’ll look weirdly worthwhile, guaranteed, and there’s nothing that a true complete totality would add.
Then you can go back to sleep having begun the day with a spectacle we haven’t seen in years.