The Levant News — The first “supermoon” total lunar eclipse in more than three decades did not disappoint, with the moon thrilling skywatchers around the world as it passed through Earth’s shadow.
On Sunday evening (Sept. 27), the slightly-larger-than-normal full moon shined brightly in Earth’s skies and then dove into the planet’s shadow, turning a gorgeous reddish-gold color as observers with clear skies enjoyed the view. The event marked the first supermoon total lunar eclipse since 1982, and the last until 2033 — and it was visible to potentially billions of people across the Western Hemisphere and parts of Europe, Africa and Asia.
NASA photographers in three different cities snapped amazing views of the total lunar eclipse. In Washington, D.C., NASA’s Aubrey Gemignani snapped views of the blood-red moon over the Washington Monument while photographer Bill Ingalls captured stunning images of the moon over the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver.
In New York City, NASA photographer Joel Kowsky captured a series of awesome images of the lunar eclipse over the Empire State Building. Elsewhere in the city, Space.com producer Tom Chao joined skywatchers at Carl Schurz Park on the Upper East Side, where several hundred people gathered to witness the eclipse.
“People are lining up to use telescopes, but I brought my own binoculars,” the prepared Chao said.
South of New York City, in West Orange, New Jersey, a thick and stubborn layer of clouds blocked any view of the hours-long lunar eclipse. Would-be lunar observers in that city, including Space.com managing editor Tariq Malik, had to make do with live webcasts provided by the Slooh Community Observatory, NASA, the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and other institutions.
The full “supermoon” (a full moon when the moon is closest to Earth in its orbit) will go into eclipse. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes into the shadow of the Earth.
There are several “flavors” of eclipse. A penumbral eclipse happens when the moon just grazes the thinnest part of Earth’s shadow. If the moon partly goes into the shadow, observers see a partial eclipse. A total lunar eclipse is the most spectacular of the three: The moon goes fully into the shadow and appears either red or brown.
Sometimes an eclipse moon is called a “blood moon” because of this rusty color. But why does the moon turn red, and not simply darken to black when it goes into the shadow? As NASA explains, it’s because the Earth’s atmosphere extends beyond the planet, and sunlight passes through it, still reaching the moon.
“During a total lunar eclipse, white sunlight hitting the atmosphere on the sides of the Earth gets absorbed and then radiated out (scattered). Blue-colored light is most affected,” NASA official wrote online. “That is, the atmosphere filters out (scatters away) most of the blue-colored light. What’s left over is the orange- and red-colored light.”
The light through Earth’s atmosphere then falls onto the moon. NASA notes that the red light seen during a lunar eclipse is much dimmer than a typical moon’s light. That happens because the red light is reflected back to Earth, and it is much dimmer than the white light the sun usually shines onto the moon’s surface.
The moon turns different shades of red, orange or gold with each eclipse. That’s because the shade of the light reaching the moon depends on what is in Earth’s atmosphere (the amount of water and particles), as well as the atmosphere’s temperature and humidity, NASA wrote. For example, a recent volcanic eruption could send more particulates into the atmosphere, further darkening the moon during an eclipse.