By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Vote for a total lunar eclipse this election day.
In the wee hours of Nov. 8 before the polls open, the earth will slide between the full moon and the sun, causing the final total lunar eclipse for the year.
It’s unclear yet if the weather will cooperate.
Max Gilbraith, planetarium coordinator for the University of Wyoming, told Cowboy State Daily the eclipse starts just after 2 a.m. and is set to end at about 6 a.m. in the Mountain Time zone. It will enter totality – or a full, reddish coloration as the sun’s rays refract through the earth’s atmosphere to reach it – in the middle of that time slot.
Another name for the phenomenon is “blood moon.”
“The same reason sunsets are red is why the moon turns red during the eclipse,” said Gilbraith.
There are no angular viewing challenges to this eclipse, as it is due to start with the moon halfway up the visible sky and enter totality when the moon is at about 25 degrees, or a quarter of the way up the arc of visible sky, he said.
Gilbraith said the lunar sunset of totality isn’t the only enjoyable part of the event: Watching the earth’s shadow glide across the moon’s face is subtle, but “fun” viewing, especially with binoculars or a telescope.
The Leonids meteor shower also should be visible throughout the night, he said. It can produce between five and 20 meteors in an hour depending on the year.
Full moons normally deter meteor watchers because the moon’s blasting light can render invisible the meteors’ sparking collisions with the atmosphere, said Gilbraith.
But a lunar eclipse darkens the sky.
“During the eclipse you’d hopefully get a better-than-average meteor shower because of the dimness of the moon,” he said.
But viewers who don’t catch the meteor shower during the eclipse have until the end of the month to watch it. The Leonids run from Nov. 6-30.
Don Day Is Not Optimistic
Election day is a week away, but Don Day, a Wyoming meteorologist and Cowboy State Daily contributor, is not optimistic about the Wyoming weather forecast so far.
Day said eager celestial viewers should continue to check the forecast, but at this point he’s anticipating cloud cover for the early morning hours, with a potential for snow in the western part of the state.
Temperatures could range from the teens in the western part of the state to the 30s in the eastern part.
“Things could change, but right now it’s probably going to be more cloudy than clear,” said Day.