Space Talk: Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

For the werewolf wary, September 27 is not your night. Beginning at 10:11 p.m., set your stargazing eyes toward earth’s natural satellite as a Supermoon—a moniker for when the moon’s orbit brings it close to earth—and total lunar eclipse collide. It’s a celestial phenomenon that has not happened in 32 years, and won’t happen for another 18. Easily visible throughout Southwest Florida—weather permitting—the eclipse will last one hour and 12 minutes, and moon-gazers will be able to view the entirety of the event, from beginning to end, with partial phases thrown into boot.

Lunar Eclipse - NASA

Image Credit: NASA Ames Research Center/Brian Day

   “Binoculars will work well” to observe the moon says Charlie Paul of the Everglades Astronomical Society when asked how to best watch the eclipse, while “telescopes do show a lot more detail.” Adding that since the moon is “bright enough to be viewed in town from back yards,” there is no need to travel to the darker recesses of the Southwest Florida, i.e. the Everglades, to maximize observation.

   A total eclipse, when the moon is completely engulfed by earth’s shadow, paints the moon a reddish, coppery color, the result of sunlight bending through earth’s atmosphere. When compounding this orangey glow with the super-sized appearance, we have a “Super Blood Moon” on our hands. But for amateur astronomers and backyard sky gazers, what exactly should we look for?

   “The best, most attractive parts of one of these events is right before the beginning of totality, and right after the end,” says Sam Storch, a Fellow with the International Planetarium Society. “The reason is you have what we call the Japanese Lantern Effect, where you have a combination of white, yellow, orange, and red—its really, really colorful—that happen the last few minutes before the moon slips completely into [and out of] the shadow.”

Near Total Eclipse

Near total lunar eclipse.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/Andrew tk tang

   Storch advises to view the eclipse in stages: “Go out and look at the moon before the eclipse begins, around 7:30 or so. Then set a kitchen timer so that every 10 minutes or so, you go outside and take a look. As a result, during the night you will build up a movie in your head how the eclipse progresses. You will see the turning of the earth, as well as see the moon slipping in and out of the earth’s shadow.” And try to do so without a “street shining light in your face, or even visible down the block.”

   On a broader, extraterrestrial sense, Storch says consider this while observing this lunar event: “When you look at a total eclipse of the moon, you personally are part of a perfectly straight line: It is an astronomical alignment of the sun, then the earth, then you, then the moon. So during totality, you are part of this straight line in our solar system.” Kind of cool, right?


For a total eclipse breakdown, Charlie Paul of the Everglades Astronomical Society has presented a time chart and what to expect during the total supermoon eclipse of 2015.

  • Penumbral Eclipse begins  at 8:11 p.m. This will not be viewable without special equipment, very faint shadow crosses the moon.
  • Partial Eclipse begins at 9:07 p.m. This is where part of the moon will start being covered.
  • Full Eclipse begins at 10:11 p.m.
  • Maximum Eclipse at 10:47 p.m. During this phase the moon may look reddish, very pretty.
  • Full Eclipse ends at 11:23 p.m.
  • Partial Eclipse ends on September 28 at 12:27 a.m. This is where part of the moon will loose coverage.
  • Penumbral Eclipse ends at 1:22 a.m. Not viewable without special equipment, very faint shadow leaves the moon.

For more on the Total Supermoon Eclipse, check out this handy video from NASA:


Eclipse Cocktail - Total Lunar EclipseFor the at-home stargazer, there is nothing better than observing the moon slip into the earth’s shadow with a cocktail in hand. Celebrate the rarity of the lunar event with the apropos Eclipse. Calling for a rather interesting fruit-infused liquor, sloe gin, sloe berries, a plum relative, are usually too bitter to eat raw but are great when mixed with gin, and really give this cocktail a unique flavor. Enjoy!


In a cocktail glass, pour enough grenadine to just cover a cherry. Mix remaining ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, strain into glass and garnish with a cherry.

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