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Wyoming Lunar Eclipse

Election Day ‘Blood Moon,’ Lunar Eclipse May Get Snowed Out In Wyoming

in Wyoming Life/News
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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.   

High Arc 

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. 

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Wyoming To Experience Near-Total Lunar Eclipse on Friday at 2:00 A.M.

in Astronomy

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

One might think with it getting dark so early, the divine schedulers might be able to do a better job with the starting time of the near-total lunar eclipse later this week.

In Wyoming, the eclipse will begin right after midnight on Friday morning.

For astronomy lovers, Wyoming meteorologist Don Day said this eclipse is not one to be missed.  Not only will it be the longest lunar eclipse of the century but the longest since 1440.

So unless you’re a vampire, Day said, chances are you haven’t seen one this long before. 

Friday’s event will last six hours and two minutes. But here in Wyoming, peak viewing times are between 12:00 a.m. and 3:45 a.m.

The earth’s distance from the moon is the reason for the eclipse’s staying power. The full moon is at its apogee — which means the furthest the moon can go in its orbit around the Earth.

The moon moves slower the further it is from our blue marble.

If you just want the Cliff Notes’ version of the eclipse, set your alarm for 2 a.m. — that’s when the eclipse will appear most full, covering 97% of the moon.

As for the weather, the divine schedulers could have done better here as well.

Because of cloud clover, Day grades viewing conditions at a C-minus to a D-plus — although that can always change.

“At the moment, looks like a lot of high clouds Thursday night/Friday morning, there will be breaks but more clouds than clear,” Day said.

Makes no difference to Day, however. These events don’t come along very often.

 “I will always say it is worth staying up and astronomical events are special, most folks miss out,” he said.

Day said he hoped the long-range forecast improves.

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Wyomingites Can See Lunar Eclipse Early Wednesday

in News
The moon transitioning during lunar eclipse, ALT=Super Blood Wolf Moon

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A lunar eclipse known as the “Super Flower Blood Moon” will be viewable in Wyoming early Wednesday morning.

Around 4 a.m. Wednesday, the Earth, sun and moon will align to allow for a total lunar eclipse. While Wyomingites might have to get up a little early to see it, University of Wyoming planetarium director Max Gilbraith said the view is worth it.

“You’re going to see this red and black glow over the mountains, because this is not only a lunar eclipse, but it’s also the time of a supermoon,” he said.

A supermoon is a full or new moon that appears larger than normal due to the Moon coming closer to Earth during its elliptic orbit.

The eclipse should be viewable in all corners of Wyoming, but the farther west you get in the state, the later the sun rises and the moon sets, so the residents of Jackson might get to sleep in a few minutes later than those in Cheyenne or Laramie and still catch the event.

The totality, or the point when the Earth’s shadow fully obscures the moon, for this lunar eclipse will last about 14 minutes. This is the first total lunar eclipse since 2019.

Lunar eclipses tend to occur about every 18 months, Gilbraith explained, and are viewable across a wider swath of the earth, unlike solar eclipses, which usually can only be seen in a certain areas.

“Lunar eclipses are a little less rare than solar ones, but they provide such an incredible view,” he said.

While you don’t need binoculars to see the lunar eclipse, they will provide a sharper detail for viewing.

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Super Blood Wolf Moon could be hidden by winter storm

in News
The moon transitioning during lunar eclipse, ALT=Super Blood Wolf Moon

Total lunar eclipse to occur Sunday during moon’s closest orbit to Earth

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily (Image credit: NASA)

When the moon hits your eye like a big cherry pie, that’s a Super Blood Wolf Moon, aka total lunar eclipse, and it’s happening Sunday night.

“A lunar eclipse is when the moon passes into the Earth’s shadow,” said University of Wyoming Professor of Physics and Astronomy Chip Kobulnicky. “It typically happens about twice per year.”

While Super Blood Wolf Moon may sound like the name of  an ’80s hair-metal band, Kobulnicky said the nomenclature refers to the moon’s proximity to the Earth, and the atmosphere’s tendency to filter blue light.

“The moon’s orbit is ever so slightly elliptical,” he explained. “It looks pretty circular, but it has a small eccentricity, and that means during part of its orbit, it’s closer to the Earth.”

When its orbit draws the moon closest to the Earth, it is referred to as a Super Moon.

“The lunar eclipse has to happen on a full moon, because that is the time of month that the full disc of the moon is lit by the sun, so the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth as the sun,” Kobulnicky said. “As the moon moves completely into the Earth’s shadow, the moon will still be visible, because a small amount of sunlight gets through the Earth’s atmosphere.”

The atmosphere preferentially blocks and scatters blue light, giving the sky its blue appearance.

“It’s mainly the red light that gets through the Earth’s atmosphere,” Kobulnicky said, explaining the filtering process also grants sunsets a red appearance. “So, that’s why the moon will look red, and why I think they call it a Blood Moon.”

The first full moon of January is referred to as a Wolf Moon, likely because of the packs of wolves that gathered and howled outside Native American settlements during this time of year, the Farmers’ Almanac reported. It has also been dubbed the Old Moon or the Moon After Yule.

Unlike the limited visibility of 2017’s total solar eclipse, the Super Blood Wolf Moon will be seen from most places throughout North and South America — weather permitting — Kobulnicky said.

“They are usually visible from a wide swath across the Earth’s surface,” he added. “It’s a fairly long event, so I’m hoping we have clear enough skies for people to see the Super Blood Moon.”

As is often the Wyoming way, however, the event might be disguised by a storm front rolling in Sunday night, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Matthew Brothers.

“Right now, it looks like there will probably be some clouds in the sky Sunday night,” Brothers said. “We have a potential storm system moving in early Monday. We’re looking at cloud cover of about 50 percent for most of the state.”

The north and west portions of Wyoming are likely to see the most cloud cover, while southeastern Wyoming — mainly Laramie County — could experience less cloudy skies, he said.

Cloudy or clear, NASA reported the lunar eclipse will begin at 7:36 p.m. Mountain time Sunday with the edge of the Moon entering the Earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra. At 8:33 p.m., the Moon will enter the Earth’s inner shadow, or umbra, and begin darkening significantly, NASA reported.

By 9:41 p.m., the Moon will be completely enveloped by the umbra, kicking off the total lunar eclipse. The Moon exits the umbra at 10:43 p.m., ending the total lunar eclipse. And, the event will end entirely with the moon leaving the penumbra at 12:48 a.m. Monday, according to NASA.

Image credit: NASA/Rami Daud

A telescope is not needed to see the lunar eclipse, Kobulnicky said, but observers might use binoculars to get a closer look.

“The moon is so bright and so big, that a telescope is overkill,” he explained. “Just the eyes is a perfect tool.”

While the moon’s proximity to the Earth could mean bigger tides on the coast, Kobulnicky said the Super Moon would not affect the state in any discernible way.

“I don’t think there’s many tide affects going on in Wyoming,” Kobulnicky said, smiling. “There’s just not enough beachfront property here.”

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