There is a lunar eclipse coming this Wednesday, and it will feature a rare quality. The coming lunar eclipse, already an amazing sight as the Earth will pass between the setting full moon and the rising sun, will give viewers something they may not have ever seen: a horizontal eclipse or selenelion. The optimum place to see this event would be Australia, but if a flight to Australia is not possible, the amazing lunar eclipse will be on display for most in the Eastern United States in the early hours of Wednesday morning. This particular type of eclipse, which some have deemed a highly unlikely and almost impossible scenario because of all the different cosmic factors that need to come into play at the same time, is called a horizontal eclipse because viewers who have access to both eastern and western horizons will be able to actually see the red on the eclipsed moon at the same time that they can view the rising sun.
Lunar eclipses have always inspired wonder, and their rarity has given life to folklore. During an eclipse, the moon often shows a bright red hue because of the way in which it is shadowed by Earth. The sun shines on the moon until the Earth passes through the path of sunlight, and the Earth’s atmosphere restricts most of the blue light from reaching the moon, resulting in mostly red rays reaching the moon from the sunlight remaining. The red color, as Swinburne University Astronomer Alan Duffy reports, is from all the “sunrises and sunsets of Earth shining onto the moon.”
A lunar eclipse only takes place for a short time. In places that offer best access to both eastern and western horizons the upcoming eclipse will be visible for around three hours and 20 minutes. Because of the factors that have to align for a total lunar eclipse to occur, there is always a different prime viewing are to see the eclipse in its best display. This time, the best location to see the lunar eclipse is Australia because of its southern position in relation to where the sun rises on the Earth and because both East and West coasts offer horizon lines that are much less like give obstructed views than most other countries. The rare feature that makes this lunar eclipse special will surely be a wonder for anyone who dares to wake up early enough and finds an open eastern horizon to catch it. For people in the Eastern United States trying to get a look at the rare feat of the selenelion, there will only be about a two- to nine-minute window where the scene will be available.
Blood moons, or lunar eclipses can come in three varieties: a penumbral lunar eclipse, a partial lunar eclipse and a total lunar eclipse. Most are not too preoccupied with arrivals of penumbral eclipses, as they are very hard to see for inexperienced viewers who do not have access to special equipment. Partial eclipses are beautiful sights, but are not the holy grail of celestial scenery that people look for because the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow only partially. The total eclipse is such a marvel because the entire moon is in the Earth’s shadow. Total eclipses are very rare, but the April 15, 2014 eclipse and Oct. 8, 2014’s eclipse are a part of a string of four straight lunar eclipses in which the Earth casts a total shadow over the moon before the next penumbral eclipse.
The moon has always been interesting to astronomers and night sky gazers alike, and its mystery has inspired many stories of folklore but has also helped man beyond just being a light at night. The moon has a perfect 29.5 day phase cycle multiple ancient civilizations used the moon’s phase cycle to create lunar calendars, as the new moon phase, where the moon is not visible in the sky because of its position in relation to the sun, usually started a new unit of days in the calendar, which birthed the word “month.”
This wonder will be an event worthy of losing some sleep and waking up early for. The lunar eclipse will be visible early Oct. 8, and masses of people will surely partake in uncharacteristic activity to see the horizontal eclipse. The rare quality featured in Wednesday’s lunar eclipse may not happen again for a very long time, and conditions must be perfect to bring about the selenelion. The best time to catch the sun rising and the moon setting simultaneously is between 6:55am and 7:03 am central time. This scene has been declared in the past as highly unlikely which may make this rare version of a lunar eclipse that much more worth waking up early for.
By LaBaron Jackson