Yesterday's Solar Eclipse Was First of Six Eclipses In 2019 With 'Super Wolf Blood Moon' Up Next

Society | January 7, 2019, Monday // 13:33
Bulgaria: Yesterday's Solar Eclipse Was First of Six Eclipses In 2019 With 'Super Wolf Blood Moon' Up Next Източник: pixabay

Are you ready for five more incredible eclipses in 2019? Yesterday’s partial solar eclipse peaked in northeast Russia when 60% of the Sun was blocked by the Moon, but there are five more eclipses coming up this year that deserve your attention, according to FORBES. 

In fact, 2019 contains a pantheon of eclipses of different types, and eclipse-chasers are getting excited. “The two eclipses I am most looking forward to are the Jan 21 total lunar eclipse, and the July 2 total solar eclipse visible from Chile and Argentina,” says Fred Espenak, retired NASA astrophysicist and eclipse expert based in Arizona Sky Village. Known as Mr. Eclipse, he recently posted an article that discusses the details of all eclipses in 2019. After those two events, there’s a partial lunar eclipse on July 16, and an annular solar eclipse on December 26. However, between the two is a rare Transit of Mercury when the smallest planet in the solar system will appear to cross the Sun’s disk over the course of a few hours on November 11, 2019.

So, is 2019 something of a ‘dream year’ for eclipse-watchers?

“Each year is a dream year for an eclipse enthusiast – after all, there are at least two solar eclipses each year,” says Jay Pasachoff, a professor of astronomy at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and Chair of the International Astronomical Union Working Group on Solar Eclipses. “In 2018, with no total solar eclipse, there were three partials; my wife and I were in Buenos Aires in February, Tasmania in July, and Sweden in August.” However, Pasachoff has big plans for this year. Having just witnessed Sunday’s partial solar eclipse near Tokyo, Japan, he is making plans for July’s total solar eclipse.

However, before 'the big one' comes North America's celestial highlight of 2019 – a so-called 'Super Blood Wolf Moon'.

1 – Total Lunar Eclipse – Sunday/Monday, January 20/21, 2019

January's Total Lunar Eclipse is also known as a 'Super Blood Wolf Moon' eclipse. Cheesy? Yup, but it is a supermoon, AND total lunar eclipses are often called a 'Blood Moon', AND January's Full Moon is called the Wolf Moon in North America. So why not?

The spectacle is watching a Full Moon turn a copper-orange-reddish color during an hour-long 'totality' as our satellite passes through Earth's central shadow. It's only visible on the night-side of Earth, which includes South America, the eastern Pacific Ocean, western Atlantic Ocean, and extreme western Europe.  “The 2019 January 21 total lunar eclipse is perfectly placed for the Americas and Western Europe, and we will see the entire event from start to finish,” says Espenak. Totality is at 9:12 p.m. PST on January 20 and 00:12 a.m. EST on January 21 from North America.

Note: I will soon write a dedicated post that includes all the timings for everywhere (USA, Canada, South America and Western Europe).

2 – Total Solar Eclipse – July 2, 2019

The big one – exactly like the total solar eclipse in the USA on August 21, 2017 – and the first one since. Visible from the South Pacific, Chile and Argentina, a stroke of luck means the Moon's shadow will plunge into darkness Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory and La Silla Observatory in Chile, two of the most famous astronomy sites in the world.

“On that Tuesday in July 2019, the eyes of the world will turn to Chile, as the Moon will pass between the Earth and the Sun, blocking out the light of our Sun,” explains Claudio Melo, ESO Representative in Chile. “Astronomy and the beauty of the pristine Chilean skies will be showcased to the entire world, as the rarity of the total eclipse will attract thousands of people, from both Chile and further afield, to the north of the country”

The eclipse-chasing community are, not surprisingly, mostly converging on Chile. "I don’t like the term 'eclipse-chaser' since I get in place first; I am an 'eclipse preceder' or 'umbraphile'," says Pasachoff, whose team will image the Sun’s corona from La Silla Observatory to the north of the central line of the eclipse. “I’m leading a tour to Chile and will observe the eclipse from the Vicuna area,” says Espenak. From there, about 2 minutes 20 seconds of totality will be experienced.

3 – Partial lunar eclipse, July 16, 2019

Eclipses always come in pairs, and sometimes a trio. The perfect positioning of the Moon on the ecliptic on July 2, 2019 causes a total solar eclipse, but two weeks later it's almost as well positioned when it's on the other side of Earth. Cue a partial lunar eclipse, which is not visible to North America. However, Africa, Europe and Asia all get some kind of view of a weird-looking half-full moon turning slightly red.

"Earth's umbral shadow will fall on to the moon, and you will see quite a bit of red on one side of the moon," says Tom Kerrs, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, London and author of Moongazing: Beginners Guide to the Moon. "The top of the moon will be dark, but the bottom will be lit-up– it will be a very strange-looking moon." The greatest eclipse is going to occur for the U.K at about 22:30 p.m.

4 – Transit of Mercury – Monday, November 11, 2019

“Do not forget the Mercury Transit in November as it’s the last one until 2032,” warns Xavier Jubier from Paris, France, an eclipse-chaser and member of International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group on Solar Eclipses. Although eclipses are typically thought of as being when the Moon passes in front of the Sun, technically speaking they also describe when a planet appears to cross the disk of the Sun. That can only happen to Mercury or Venus, the inner planets, as seen from Earth, and November 11, 2019, it’s the turn of the closest planet to the Sun. It's an event that happens only 13 times per century.

It’s an event that will be best viewed from the eastern U.S., Central America, and South America. “For the transit I will be the Atacama Desert in Chile, a great location – I was there for the previous Mercury Transit in 2016 as I could have it with the Sun rising between the volcanos,” says Jubier. The next Transit of Merucry occurs on November 13, 2032.

“The Transit of Mercury requires a telescope and a solar filter,” warns Espenak. “If you don't have either of these, check with local astronomy clubs, planetariums, and/or science museums to see if they will have telescopes set up for public viewing.”

The same is true for a rare ‘Ring of Fire’ annular solar eclipse next Christmas. 

5 – Annular solar eclipse – Thursday, December 26, 2019

Those in parts of Saudi Arabia, southern India, northern Sri Lanka, the Indian Ocean, and Indonesia on Boxing Day in 2019 will see a rare ‘Ring of Fire’ annular solar eclipse. The spectacle has been described as looking "like a bicycle wheel on fire". 

“I plan to observe the December 26, 2019, annular eclipse from India,” says Pasachoff. The event is, strictly speaking, a partial eclipse, but a very pretty one. It happens when a New Moon is positioned furthest from the Earth on its elliptical orbit, so appears slightly smaller in the sky and cannot fully eclipse the Sun. It never gets dark and you have to use solar filter safety glasses throughout the event. “I haven’t yet made my mind [where to watch from], it could be Saudi Arabia or Qatar if I decide to go for it at sunrise with questionable seeing,” says Jubier. The spectacle can look more dramatic at sunrise, when it can be photographed more easily, and with a foreground. “Or else UAE or Oman if I play it safe and conventional, or want to combine it with some sightseeing.”

However, even some eclipse-chasers give such 'minor' eclipses a miss. “Although annular eclipses can be quite interesting, they are nothing like a total eclipse,” says Espenak, who thinks that annular eclipses are only for die-hard eclipse-chasers. “In rating the sheer beauty and grandeur of solar eclipses, a partial is a three, an annular is a seven, and a total is a 1,000,000! There's no comparison.”

So enjoy 2019's pantheon of eclipses, but know that the only one eclipse-chaser would go to the ends of the Earth to see is a total solar eclipse from the path of totality – surely nature's greatest spectacle.

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