Categories: AstronomyEclipsesMoon

It’s A Blue Moon New Year’s Eve Party!

Have you enjoyed our lunar studies together this year? We hope you’ve taken the time to follow the phases and to appreciate what you see. Although it would be wonderful to end our this year’s time together viewing the distant cosmos, something very cool is about to happen…

In 1982, a second full Moon of the month was visible. Known as a ‘‘Blue Moon,’’ the name does not refer to the Moon’s color but reflects the rarity of the event and gives rise to the expression, ‘‘once in a blue moon.’’ The Blue Moon of 1982 was even more special because a total lunar eclipse also occurred (for the United States) then. The image you see below has a strange significance as well. Not only is it the absolute finest photo of the full Moon I have ever seen, but it was recorded at a year’s end, too… on December 22, 1999 by incomparable astrophotographer Rob Gendler. That particular December’s Moon was special for another reason, as the full phase occurred on the day of the winter solstice, within hours of lunar perigee and just one month away from a lunar eclipse.

Only a very small portion of the Moon’s southern limb will be in the Earth’s umbral shadow, but there will be a noticeable darkening visible over the Moon’s face at the point of greatest eclipse. Need more? Then know this eclipse is the one of four lunar eclipses in a short-lived series. The lunar year series repeats after 12 lunations or 354 days. Afterwards it will begin shifting back about 10 days in sequential years. Because of the date change, the Earth’s shadow will be about 11 degrees west in sequential events.

For the eclipse, the duration of the partial phase will last within two seconds of a hour long, while the penumbral duration from beginning to end will run about four hours and eleven minutes. Penumbral contact will begin at 17:17:08 UT and umbral contact at 18:52:43 UT. The moment of greatest depth of shadow will occur at 19:22:39 UT, 31 December 2009. It will be visible from all of Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

What a wonderful way to end our year together. . . at light speed!

Many thanks to Kostian Iftica for his “Blue Moon” image and to Robert Gendler. Once again, I strongly encourage you to look at the hi-resolution image of “A SkyGazer’s Full Moon” and Carpe Noctem, dudes…

Tammy Plotner

Tammy was a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status. (Tammy passed away in early 2015... she will be missed)

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