A supermoon eclipse is a rare phenomenon where a total lunar eclipse occurs during a full moon phase. Residents of Earth have not had a chance to witness a supermoon eclipse in almost 30 years.
A full moon total lunar eclipse will occur on September 27th, and last one hour and 12 minutes. The rare planetary algnment will be visible from most of the planet, including North and South America, Europe, Africa, and parts of West Asia and the eastern Pacific.
Astronomers note that the Earth’s shadow will start to dim the supermoon slightly beginning at 8:11 pm EDT.
Of note, those who wish to view the eclipse can safely look at the supermoon unmasked after nightfall. The total lunar eclipse will cover the Moon’s face for nearly an hour and a quarter.
The moon will rise three minutes before sunset on the West Coast. That means that this supermoon lunar eclipse can be viewed early in the evening, with totality happening around 7:47 pm, almost an hour after it begins.
Statement from NASA astronomer
“Because the orbit of the moon is not a perfect circle, the moon is sometimes closer to the Earth than at other times during its orbit,” noted Noah Petro, deputy project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
“When the Moon is farthest away, it’s known as apogee and when it’s closest it’s known as perigee. On September 27, we are going to have a perigee full moon – the closest full moon of the year,” he continued in a statement published Tuesday.
Petro emphasized that despite the scary appearance of a huge, looming moon, the supermoon eclipse, or blood moon, is not a danger and is nothing to worry about..
“The only thing that will happen on Earth during an eclipse is that people will wake up the next morning with neck pain because they spent the night looking up,” he pointed out.
Supermoon just appears bigger
Astronomers point out that at perigee, the moon is almost 31,000 miles closer to Earth than it is at apogee (that distance equates to more than once around the circumference of Earth).
The fact that it is so much closer to the earth at this time makes the perigee full moon appear 14% larger and 30% brighter in the sky than an apogee full moon, which led to the coining of the term “supermoon”.
“There’s no physical difference in the moon. It just appears slightly bigger in the sky. It’s not dramatic, but it does look larger,” NASA’s Petro added.
More on lunar eclipses
Eclipses of the moon occur when the Sun, Earth and Moon all line up in an almost straight line. An eclipse is also referred to as syzygy, from the Greek term for being paired together.
In a total lunar eclipse, the Sun, Earth and Moon are all aligned in a straight line. The larger Earth blocks any sunlight from reaching the Moon. However, the Sun is behind the Earth, so the Sun’s light casts the Earth’s shadow on the Moon. This shadow gradually moves across the entire Moon, and at its peak covering the whole moon, it becomes a total lunar eclipse.