Weekly Space Hangout – April 26, 2013

We had an action packed Weekly Space Hangout on Friday, with a vast collection of different stories in astronomy and spaceflight. This week’s panel included Alan Boyle, Dr. Nicole Gugliucci, Scott Lewis, Jason Major, and Dr. Matthew Francis. Hosted by Fraser Cain.

Some of the stories we covered included: Pulsar Provides Confirmation of General Relativity, Meteorites Crashing into Saturn’s Rings, Radio Observations of Betelgeuse, Progress Docks with the ISS, Hubble Observes Comet ISON, Grasshopper Jumps 250 Meters, April 25th Lunar Eclipse, and the Mars One Reality Show.

We record the Weekly Space Hangout every Friday at 12 pm Pacific / 3 pm Eastern. You can watch us live on Google+, Cosmoquest or listen after as part of the Astronomy Cast podcast feed (audio only).

A ‘Shallow’ Lunar Eclipse Coming on April 25

Eclipse season is upon us this week with the first eclipse of 2013, a brief partial lunar eclipse.

The lunar eclipse on April 25, 2013 is a shallow one, meaning only a paltry 1.47% of the lunar limb will be immersed in the dark umbra or inner shadow of the Earth. Observers can expect to see only a dark diffuse edge of the inner shadow nick the the Moon as is grazes the umbra.

A partial lunar eclipse this shallow hasn’t occurred since May 3rd, 1958 (0.9%) and won’t be topped until September 28th, 2034 (1.4%). This is the second slightest partial lunar eclipse for this century.

Another term for this sort of alignment is known as a syzygy, a great triple-letter word score in Scrabble!

A video simulation of the eclipse:

The eclipse will be visible in its entirety from eastern Europe & Africa across the Middle East eastward to southeast Asia and western Australia. The eclipse will be visible at moonrise from South America to Western Europe and occurring at moonset for eastern Australia and the Far East. The partially eclipsed Moon will be directly overhead just off the northeastern coast of Madagascar. The eclipse will not be visible from North America.

Two eclipse seasons occur each year when the nodal points of the Moon’s orbit intersect the ecliptic while aligned with the position of the Sun and the Earth’s shadow. The Moon’s orbit is inclined 5.15° degrees with respect to the ecliptic, which traces out our own planet’s path around the Sun. If this intersection occurs near New or Full Moon, a solar or lunar eclipse occurs.

The visibility region of Thursday's partial lunar eclipse.
The visibility region of Thursday’s partial lunar eclipse (Credit: NASA/GSFC/F. Espenak).

If the Moon’s orbit was not inclined to our own, we’d get two eclipses per lunation, one solar and one lunar.

2013 has 5 eclipses, 3 lunar and 2 annular. The minimum number of eclipses that can occur in a calendar year is 4, and the maximum is 7, as will next occur in 2038.

The 3 lunar eclipses in 2013 are this week’s partial eclipse on April 25th and two faint penumbral eclipses, one on May 25th and another on October 18th. There is no total lunar eclipse in 2013. The last one occurred on December 10th 2011, and the next one won’t occur until April 15th 2014, favoring the Pacific Rim region.

This eclipse will also set us up for the first solar eclipse of 2013, an annular eclipse crossing NE Australia (in fact crossing the path of last year’s total eclipse near Cairns) and the south Pacific on May 10th. The only solar totality that will touch the surface of the Earth in 2013 is  the hybrid eclipse on November 3rd spanning Africa and the South Atlantic with a maximum totality of 1 minute & 40 seconds.

Contact times for the April 25 shallow eclipse:

P1-The Moon touches the penumbra-18:03:41 UT

U1-The Moon touches the umbra-19:54:04 UT

Mid-Eclipse-20:08:37.5 UT

U4 -The Moon quits the umbra-20:21:04 UT

P4-The Moon quits the penumbra- 22:11:23 UT

The length of the partial phase of the eclipse is exactly 27 minutes, and the length of the entire eclipse is 4 hours, 7 minutes and 42 seconds.

This particular eclipse is part of saros series 112 and is member 65 of 72.

This saros cycle began in 859 C.E. on May 20th and will end in 2139 on July 12th with a penumbral lunar eclipse. One famous member of this series was 52.  This eclipse was one of many used by Captain James Cook to fix his longitude at sea on December 4th 1778. Christopher Columbus also attempted this feat while voyaging to the New World. It’s a fun project that anyone can try!

I also remember watching the last eclipse in this series from South Korea on April 15th 1995, a slightly better partial of 11.14%.

An occultation of the bright star Spica occurs just 20 hours prior as seen from South Africa across the southern Atlantic. This the 5th in a series of 13 occultations of the star by the Moon in 2013.

Occultation of Spica
The visibility region for the April 25th occultation of Spica. (Created by the Author using Occult

The +2.8th magnitude star Zubenelgenubi (Alpha Librae) is occulted by the waning gibbous Moon just 15 hours after the eclipse for Australia and the South Pacific.

Another occultation of a bright star with potential this week is +4.7th magnitude Chi Virginis across North America on the morning of Wednesday, April 24th  centered on 4:24 UT.

Chi Virginis occultation
Visibility region for the occultation of Chi Virginis on April 24th. (Created by the author using Occult software).

Also keep an eye out for +0.1 magnitude Saturn near the Full Moon. Saturn reaches opposition this weekend for 2013 on April 28th

Full Moon occurs near mid-eclipse at 20:00 UT/16:00 EDT on April 25th. Colloquial names for the April Full Moon are the Pink, Fish, Sprouting Grass, Egg, Seed, & Waking Moon.

Sure, the penumbral phases of an eclipse are subtle and may not be noticeable to the naked eye… but it is possible to see the difference photographically.  Simply take a photo of the Moon before it enters the Earth’s penumbra, then take one during the penumbral phase and then another one after.  Be sure to keep the ISO/f-stop and shutter speed exactly the same throughout. Also, this project only works if the eclipsed Moon is high in the sky throughout the exposures, as the thick air low to the horizon will discolor the Moon as well. Compare the shots; do you see a difference?

A penumbral eclipse would offer a good proof of concept test for hunting for transiting exoplanets as well, although to our knowledge, no one has ever attempted this.

Finally, calling out to all Universe Today readers in Madagascar. YOU may just be able to catch a transit  of the International Space Station in front of the Moon just as the ragged edge of the umbra becomes apparent on the limb of the Moon. Check CALSky a day or so prior to the eclipse for a refined path… it would be an unforgettable pic!

The position of the ISS on April 25th at 19:48UT, just minutes before the partial pahse of the eclipse begins. (Credit: Orbitron).
The position of the ISS on April 25th at 19:48UT, just minutes before the partial phase of the eclipse begins. (Credit: Orbitron).

And if any ambitious observer is planning to live stream the eclipse, let us know and we’ll add your embed to this post. We do not expect an avalanche of web broadcasts, but hey, we’d definitely honor the effort!  Slooh is usually a pretty dependable site for live eclipse broadcasts, and as of this writing seems to have broadcast scheduled in the cue.

Happy eclipse-spotting!

Stunning Partial Lunar Eclipse Images from June 4, 2012


Early on June 4th, the full “Strawberry” Moon passed through the shadow of Earth, producing a partial lunar eclipse. It was visible across the ‘Pacific’ side of Earth, from Asia to North America, and began at about 10:00 UTC (3:00 a.m. PDT), reaching its maximum at 11:03 UTC (4:03 a.m. PDT). At most about 38% of the Moon’s diameter was in shadow.

Some great images are coming in, like this collage of 10 photos from Genaro Grajeda in Mexico City, taken from 3:55 a.m. to 6:35 a.m.

See more below, and for any of the images, click for larger versions and/or the original version!

Prolific and accomplished astrophotographer John Chumack traveled from his home in Ohio to Tucson, Arizona to capture the eclipse. Compare these two images he took, the first with 1/160th of a second exposure, the second with a half second exposure.

“I took many shots, and here are a couple,” said Chumack, “one showing normal exposure of the Moon, but something dark is covering it…and the second shot was deliberately over exposed to reveal the culprit — Earth’s Shadow covering up part of the Moon during Maximum Eclipse for us in Tucson.”

Partial Lunar Eclipse 6-04-2012 from Tucson, Arizona, USA during maximum, with 1/160th of a second exposure. Credit: John Chumack.
Partial Lunar Eclipse 6-04-2012 from Tucson, Arizona, USA, during Maximum Eclipse. Credit: John Chumack
A view of the eclipse between telephone wires. Credit: Astro-Nutt (ColinC) on Flickr.
The June 4, 2012 lunar eclipse taken through a Galileoscope and webcam from Arizona. Credit: Rob Sparks.
Taken during the eclipse on the road up to Summerhaven on Mt. Lemon, near Tucson AZ, at about 6,300 feet elevation. Credit: Bob Riddle.
'Caught the last little bit of the eclipse' said photographer Bill Ogg.
The June 4, 2012 partial lunar eclipse. Credit: Jason Hill

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group, or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

Skywatchers Share Lunar Eclipse Photos, Videos

A big eclipsed Moon over Indian Peaks in Colorado. Credit: Patrick Cullis

It was the final lunar eclipse of the year, and the last total lunar eclipse event for the western portion of the Americas until 2014, so skywatchers took advantage of clear skies, and many have shared their images and videos with Universe Today. Enjoy the views! For many of the images you can click on them and see larger versions on our Flickr group.

Above is a view in Colorado, taken by Patrick Cullis, showing the Indian Peaks with the eclipsing Moon setting overhead, taken during the lunar eclipse in the early morning hours of December 10, 2011. The Indian Peaks are a series of peaks on the continental divide near Boulder, Colorado. “The Moon set behind the continental divide right before totality, but it was still an awesome sight,” Cullis said.

Below is a video a to-die-for view of the eclipse over the Pacific Ocean.

Continue reading “Skywatchers Share Lunar Eclipse Photos, Videos”

International Measure The Moon Night – December 10, 2011

Are you planning on watching the lunar eclipse on Saturday, December 10? Would you like to try your hand at doing something new and unusual, like measuring the Moon? Then join the The Classroom Astronomer (TCA) magazine effort by using time-honored techniques – with a modern twist! Step inside and we’ll tell you where to get the information on how it’s done…

During the total lunar eclipse, viewers will be participating by observing the Moon’s location in the sky and its path through Earth’s shadow. These methods, known as the “Shadow Transit Method” and the “Lunar Parallax Method” are techniques that have been used throughout astronomical history.

“The Shadow technique can be done anyplace where the Moon can be watched through the beginning partial, total and end partial phases of the eclipse. It can be recorded by drawing or photography.” says MTM. “The Parallax technique has to be done with two observers sufficiently far apart (we estimate at least 2000 miles (3200 kilometers). It must be recorded with photography and the photographs have to be taken at the exact same time, with a field of view wide enough (4-8 degrees) such that the neighboring stars can be recorded at the same time on both photographs. A comparison of photographs through overlay procedures will show the shift of the stars (or Moon) as seen from one side of Earth to the other. The larger the shift, the closer the Moon.”

The Classroom Astronomer has created a website – MeasureTheMoon.org to help generate interest – for everyone from general observers to classrooms. Think of what a great activity this would make for your public outreach event!

When it comes to the Shadow Transit Method, the website has a downloadable template with lunar illustrations for hand plots of the shadow over the Moon’s face and a timeline sheet for putting those drawings and cut-out of the template into the proper position. A table to calculate the Moon’s distance and size from the resulting plot is also online. More information on the MeasureTheMoon.org website includes a map that shows where on Earth you need to be to use both methods. When the total lunar eclipse has ended, the website will open a venue where you can upload your photos, along with your Moon distance and diameter observations.

Have fun!!

Information provided by Measure The Moon.

Lunar Eclipse Images from Around the World; June 15, 2011


Now updated with more images and video!

It was an event that hasn’t happened in 11 years and won’t happen again until 2018. The total lunar eclipse of June 15, 2011 didn’t disappoint. Take a look at some of the amazing images taken by astrophotographers from around the world — well, the “eastern” side of the world anyway, as the eclipse wasn’t visible in North and South America. Our lead image is a fantastic mosaic taken by Marko Posavec in Koprivnica, Croatia. We have another image by Posavic below, but you can see more of his images via his Twitter account.

A blood red Moon as seen by Leonard E. Mercer in Malta.

The redness of the Moon during the eclipse was perhaps enhanced by the major volcanic eruption in Chile which has polluted the stratosphere with a haze, making the eclipse appear dark red. This image was taken by Leonard Mercer in Malta. You can see more of his images at his website.

The eclipsed Moon over buildings in Pisa, Italy. Credit: @UgoRom

Here’s a nice shot of the eclipsed Moon in Pisa, Italy, sent via Twitter from @UgoRom.

ISS flyby with an eclipsed Moon near the horizon in Koprivnica, Croatia. Credit: Marko Posavec

Here’s two skywatching events at once: and ISS flyby along with the eclipse, taken by Marko Posavec in Croatia.

Lunar eclipse from Germany. Credit: Daniel Fischer

Daniel Fischer from Germany, who writes the Cosmos4U blog and Skyweek German blog, took this image and said, “against all odds skies cleared *and* the geometry was better than expected about 10 minutes after totality. This is when this picture was taken, the reddish (outer) umbra still very evident.” You can read his recap of the eclipse here.

The June 15, 2011 lunar eclipse from South Australia. Credit: Julie Grise

Julie Grise from Adelaide in South Australia said “It clouded out here for totality – but between the clouds I managed a few images.”

Here’s a video from Nahum Chazarra, sent via Twitter taken from el Llano de la Perdiz, in Granada, Spain:

Lunar eclipse among the clouds in Vientiane, Lao PDR in southeast Asia. Credit: Janet Pontin
The red eclipsed Moon over Vientiane, Lao PDR in southeast Asia. Credit: Janet Pontin

The two images above are from Janet Pontin from Vientiane, Lao PDR in southeast Asia, who wrote to say, “We were very pleased that the thick clouds that had been sitting all evening cleared away, mostly, as the eclipse went underway. Complete view was from around 2.30 to 3am our time.”

Lunar eclipse. Credit: Gadi Eidelheit

Longtime UT reader Gadi Eidelheit from Israel took this image and said, “We had over 600 parents and children at the school where I did the observation.” A picture of Gadi and part of the group is below. He said the IAA (Israel Astronomy Association) volunteers operated about 30 observation places, and the eclipse was covered in all major papers, TV networks and news sites.”

Over 600 gathered to watch the eclipse at a school in Israel. Picture courtesy Gadi Eidelheit
A panoramic view of the eclipse near Ankara, Turkey. Credit: M. Rasid Tugral.

This beautiful panorama was taken near Ankara, Turkey and sent in by M. Rasid Tugral.

The lunar eclipse over western Switzerland. Credit: Alistair Scott

This image from Switzerland was sent in by Alistair Scott, author of The Greatest Guide to Photography.

The Moon during the early part of the June 15, 2011 eclipse over Tehran, Iran. Credit: Saeed Amiri and Hadi Emami.
A red, eclipsed Moon over Tehran, Iran. Credit: Saeed Amiri and Hadi Emami.

The two images above were sent in by Saeed Amiri Hadi Emami in Tehran, Iran, who took them with Canon SX210 camera.

You can follow Universe Today senior editor Nancy Atkinson on Twitter: @Nancy_A. Follow Universe Today for the latest space and astronomy news on Twitter @universetoday and on Facebook.

And The Moon Is Eclipsed By The Earth



On June 15 there will be a total lunar eclipse visible from Australia, Indonesia, southern Japan, India, a large area of Asia, Africa, Europe and the eastern part of South America. This is expected to be one of the darkest eclipses ever (with a magnitude of 1.7), second only to the July 2000 eclipse.

Sadly it won’t be visible to viewers in North America, but much of the rest of the world should be treated to a wonderful show as the Moon slips into Earth’s shadow. Gradually growing darker from its western limb inwards, the Moon then gains a bluish cast which transitions to orange then deep red as it moves into light passing through the edge of Earth’s atmosphere (the same as what makes the colors of a sunset) and then eventually going almost completely dark before the process then reverses itself from the opposite side.


Visibility map for June 15 lunar eclipse

The entire eclipse will last 5 hours and 39 minutes, with a totality duration of 1 hour and 40 minutes. It will begin at 17:23 UT.

Viewers in Australia and eastern Asia will see the eclipse begin as the Moon is setting while those in Europe and South America will see it as the Moon is rising. Only locations in India, eastern Africa, the Middle East and western Asia will experience the entire eclipse.

This is the first of two total lunar eclipses in 2011; the next will take place on December 10.

I saw my first total lunar eclipse last December, which took place on the night of the winter solstice (December 21). It really was an amazing event to watch… in totality the Moon was colored a deep coppery red and really just seemed to be suspended among the stars – it felt like you could just reach up and pluck it from the sky! If you are in any of the areas where this next one is visible I encourage you to check it out for yourself!

Read more about lunar eclipses on MrEclipse.com.

Image: Jason Major

Red Moon, Red Planet


In this season of Christmas tidings, many of us were blessed to witness the eerie Red Moon of the total lunar eclipse a few nights ago on Dec. 21. Here in “bonechilling” New Jersey, it was miraculously crystal clear the entire night from the beginning around 1:30 a.m. EST to the end – about three and one half hours later at around 5 a.m.

UPDATE: Check out more readers “Red Moon, Red Planet” astropix contributions below !

The eclipse occurred as the moon passed through the Earth’s inner dark shadow, or umbra and changed dramatically to varying shades of red, orange and brown.

Lunar Eclipse 12-21-2010 from The Plantation in Florida. Credit: Ernie Rossi
During totality – when the moon was completely immersed in the umbral shadow for about 72 minutes – the red moon changed from a faint red glow to a brilliant crimson red. At times it appeared to be blood red and as though the surface was stirring and oozing droplets of warm and viscous blood. It was surreal and looked to me as though it had been magically and majestically painted up into the night sky.

Well all this redness hanging in the sky during totality caused me to ponder Mars – the Red Planet – especially with the avalanche of good news streaming back lately.

And the wispy white light at near total eclipse harkened to the Martian polar ice caps.

Mars at Opposition in 2003 from New Jersey. 3.5 in Questar 0.1 seconds. Credit: Robert Vanderbei

Bright red Mars at Opposition in 2003 - The year that Spirit and Opportunity launched.

So please send your telescopic shots and descriptions of the Red Planet and/or the Red Moon and I’ll post them here. Email kremerken at yahoo dot com or post as comments to add here.

Looking up at the sky it was easy to imagine Opportunity newly arrived at the gorgeous Martian crater Santa Maria, hunting for minerals spotted from orbit that could influence the search for life, as Odyssey circles about at a record setting pace and transmits those tell tale clues back to scientists waiting on Earth.

Lunar Eclipse from New Jersey 12-21-2010. Credit: Robert Vanderbei

Despite the shadow the moon does not completely disappear. The red moon’s glow was caused by sunlight refracted through the earth’s atmosphere and cast upon the lunar surface. The hue varies depending on a variety of atmospheric conditions and can be intensified by floating clouds of volcanic ash and dust. The recent volcanic eruptions at Mount Merapi in Indonesia in October and at Mount Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland last April sent massive plumes of particles skyward which may have influenced the thrilling event.

Red Moon, Red Planet. One day we’ll journey there and back again.


Send me your astropix of Red Moon and/or Red Mars to post here:

Check out these gorgeous views of Mars in January 2010 from Efrain Morales Rivera at the Jaicoa Observatory in Aquadilla, Puerto Rico

Efrain writes; On this session (01/21/10) on Mars of this years apparition many details could be seen for its size. Image at left at closest to Earth and at the limb (L) Mount Olympus largest volcano in our system, Image at right (01/27/10) closest to the Sun. Credit: Efrain Morales Rivera, Jaicoa Observatory, Aquadilla, Puerto Rico

From Robert Vanderbei of Amateur Astronomers Association Of Princeton in New Jersey; A Lunar Eclipse Montage ! Just ahead of the monster blizzard which struck the northeast Corridor of the US on Dec 26.

Dec. 21, 2010 Lunar Eclipse Montage as imaged from New Jersey. Credit: Robert Vanderbei

Some pictures of the eclipse put together as a composite from beginning to totality by Russell King of Willingboro Astronomical Society, New Jersey.

All pictures were taken with my Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi from my home in Neptune, New Jersey. I used my Canon 75 to 300MM lens and shot all exposures at 300MM. Camera was set on a fixed photo tripod. The pictures range from 1/2500 second at full moon to 1 second during totality. Images were processed in Photoshop 2 and Ulead. Credit: Russell King. http://www.rddnj.com