On the night of Sunday, Jan. 20, interested stargazers will notice the moon go a little dark, as a full lunar eclipse will take place.

The eclipse will start at around 10:30 p.m. and reach full eclipse at a little before 11:45 p.m. Full eclipse will end at around 12:45 a.m. and partial eclipse will end at 1:50 a.m.

When it starts, it will look like someone took a bite out of it,” said Bill Crownover, founder of the Mount Union Astronomy Club. “Where the bite is (the moon turns) a bit of a reddish color, and that keeps expanding until (it covers) the total. It still has the red color, and that’s the earthshine.”

Tom Hanlon, another member of the astronomy club, explained the reddish tint comes from the dust in the earth’s atmosphere.

“As the earth moves between the sun and the moon, the dust in the earth’s atmosphere is seen against the moon as a reddish-orange color,” Hanlon told The Daily News. “It has been speculated that if you stood on the moon and looked back at the earth during this eclipse, the earth would have a reddish ring around it.”

The reddish color has earned lunar eclipses the title “blood moon,” but this eclipse also adds a “super” to the beginning of the title. It earns this additional title because the moon is at the part of its orbit closest to the earth.

“It appears larger and brighter than normal,” said Hanlon.

While the moon will be easily visible with the naked eye, Crownover recommends using a pair of binoculars.

“You can get a real good look at the craters,” he said.

“Anywhere the moon is visible will be a good viewing spot,” Hanlon said.

This will be the third eclipse in the last 12 months and the last full lunar eclipse until May 2021.

This spacing is not that unusual, Hanlon explained.

“The average number (of eclipses) per year is two, but there can be zero, one or three,” he said. “It all depends on orbits and the angles of the earth and moon.”

Hanlon said he’s been interested in astronomy from a young age.

“I am of the age when space exploration was beginning in the 1950s and 60s and I’ve had an interest since,” he said. “Several years ago, there was a space launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, that was visible to the naked eye from my backyard outside of Huntingdon. It appeared as a bright reddish spot in the sky, but I could observe it as it went through its stages for approximately a minute. I was lucky that evening, as I have not been able to watch any since, due to weather or time of day.”

Crownover explained his interest came from his father.

“My father liked (astronomy), so from the time I was born I’ve been out there watching astronomical events,” Crownover said. He explained his interest led him to start the astronomy club at the Mount Union Library. He tried to donate his telescope to the library, and they said they would accept it if he started an astronomy club.

The club meets at 5 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month in the Mount Union Community Library.

“We have discussions about what is going on in the skies, current activities with space exploring, setting up sky watches and other interesting topics,” Hanlon said. “We have one member of our group who is assembling a telescope … It is turning into quite a large project and will be interesting to see how it turns out.”

Crownover encouraged those interested in astronomy to join the club.

“Astronomy is available to anyone,” Hanlon said. “All you have to do is look to the skies and wonder.”

Jesse can be reached at jrice@huntingdondailynews.com.


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