Super moon eclipse coming

Chelsea Powrie

Canadians will have just one chance to see a full lunar eclipse in 2019, and British Columbians will have a perfectly timed view this weekend. 

If skies are clear, the show will start Sunday, Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m., ending just before midnight.

"We're actually going to see the moon move through the Earth's shadow, an eclipse of the moon. We'll see more and more of the moon get covered by the Earth's shadow until eventually the Earth's completely hiding the moon, and at that point things get really interesting," said Ken Tapping, astronomer at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in the South Okanagan. 

"If you were standing on the moon, looking at the Earth at that time, basically you're seeing sunset all the way around the Earth," Tapping explained. "So this red light is being focused on the moon, and so the moon will look red."

The red tint is why the event is colloquially referred to as a "blood moon," though the colour isn't guaranteed. 

"It depends on having a clear atmosphere," he said. "If there have been any volcanoes busy or there's a lot of pollution in the atmosphere, the moon won't look red, it will look grey."

This eclipse will be especially brilliant, if conditions are right, because it coincides with a "super moon," meaning a full moon at the time of year the moon is closest to Earth in its orbit, causing it to appear up to 14 per cent larger. Sunday's event has earned the unofficial nickname "Super blood wolf moon," because the eclipse and super moon coincide with January's full moon, known every year as the "wolf moon."

Lunar eclipses are more common than solar eclipses, and are safe to stare directly at.

"And you don't really need a telescope to see this, then it's really fun to see the craters and the mountains gradually disappear into the shadow," Tapping said. 

He added that B.C. residents should take advantage, because the eclipse lands perfectly during the evening in this time zone.

"We don't have to stay up until about 3 o'clock in the morning to enjoy it, but if we were in Newfoundland or Ottawa we would have to," Tapping said. "So it's dead right for us."

To view the eclipse, look southeast in the early evening. The moon will begin to darken around 6:30 p.m. as the outer part of the Earth's shadow begins to touch it, and the darkest part of the shadow will start to be visible around 7:30 p.m. 

The moon will be fully in shadow at 8:41 p.m., and will be back to normal at 11:48 p.m.

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