As interest in astrotourism grows, eclipse chasing has become an increasingly popular activity. Whether you travel to see an eclipse or are lucky enough to enjoy them as they pass over your home, there’s no denying that eclipses are powerful and humbling to experience.
After the total lunar eclipse on July 27-28, 2018, you may wonder when the next eclipse is occurring. This post has everything you need to know, including the science behind eclipses, when the next eclipse will happen, and tips on having a great viewing experience.
What is a Lunar Eclipse?
A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, earth, and moon line up such that the shadow cast by the earth passes over the moon.
Because of the distances between the sun, earth, and moon, the earth’s shadow is actually made up of two parts: the penumbra which is a fainter, less focused shadow, and the umbra, which is a more focused, darker shadow. Here’s a quick graphic to give you a sense for how this works.
It’s important to note that the umbra and the penumbra don’t match up exactly like this – and they certainly don’t stop once they reach the moon. For this graphic, we wanted you to get a quick understanding of how the different parts of the earth’s shadow work when they pass onto the moon.
When the moon is in the earth’s shadow, it actually doesn’t turn dark: it turns red. This is due to the way light bends around earth as it moves toward the moon. This is why a lunar eclipse is often called a blood moon.
There are three types of lunar eclipse: a partial lunar eclipse (when the moon passes partially through the earth’s umbra), a total lunar eclipse (when the moon passes totally through the earth’s umbra), and a penumbral lunar eclipse (when the moon passes only through the earth’s penumbra). Here’s a quick graphic to show you what each type looks like.
While we can always spot a total lunar eclipse due to its distinctive color (remember: “blood moon”), it can be harder to spot a partial lunar eclipse if you’re not expecting it. A penumbral lunar eclipse is difficult for most people to spot; amateur and professional astronomers might know what to look for, but you’ve really got to know exactly how to see the differences in the moon during a penumbral lunar eclipse.
The rest of this post focuses on the total lunar eclipse in early 2019.
Important Details of the Lunar Eclipse in 2019
The 2019 total lunar eclipse happens right at the beginning of the year! Mark your calendars so you can try to see the eclipse on the night it happens… But be prepared that it may be cloudy since it’s winter in the northern hemisphere.
When Will the Lunar Eclipse Occur in 2019?
The lunar eclipse in 2019 will occur on January 20-21, 2019. The partial lunar eclipse will begin at 10:34pm EST on January 20th (3:33 am UTC on January 21st) and the total lunar eclipse will begin at 11:41pm EST on January 20th. Totality will end at 12:43am EST on January 21st, and the partial eclipse will end at 1:50am on January 21st.
Depending on your time zone, the entire eclipse may occur on either January 20th or January 21st. Be sure to double check the time for your time zone!
Days Until the Lunar Eclipse 2019:
Where Will the 2019 Lunar Eclipse be visible?
Typically, lunar eclipses are visible from a much larger part of the earth than a solar eclipse. This is true for the January 2019 lunar eclipse. The total lunar eclipse will be visible across all of North America, Central America, and South America. The eclipse will be visible (weather permitting) in:
- United States
- United Kingdom
As well as Greenland, Iceland, and all of the countries in Central America and South America.
The total lunar eclipse will also be visible in parts of Europe, including parts of Spain, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia.
A partial lunar eclipse will be visible in almost all countries in Africa and across all of Europe and most of the Middle East.
Most of Asia, and all of Oceania and Australia will not be able to see the lunar eclipse at all.
2019 Lunar Eclipse Map
Below you’ll find a map of the lunar eclipse path. The countries in red will experience the total lunar eclipse. Countries in purple will experience a partial lunar eclipse, and countries in white will not experience a lunar eclipse.
Click the image to learn more about the path of the 2019 lunar eclipse.
Lunar Eclipse Info: Blood Moon, Astrology & More
As mentioned, a lunar eclipse is often called a blood moon due to its distinctive reddish hue during the event. This has led to some superstitions and myths about lunar eclipses.
For example, the ancient Inca people believed a lunar eclipse was caused by a jaguar devouring the moon. They would shout and yell and shake their spears at the moon to try and scare the jaguar away. The Mesopotamians believed that all eclipses were bad omens for their rulers; they would place a ‘proxy king’ on the throne during an eclipse and hope the wrath of the gods fell on that man instead of the king. The Batammaliba people in Togo and Benin believe a lunar eclipse is a feud between the sun and moon which must be solved – and people on earth should settle their feuds during this time too.
Blood moons also play a role in astrology. While the full moon on its own is an important part of the astrological calendar and predictions about how the moon will affect our lives, a blood moon is typically interpreted by astronomers to have an even more dramatic effect – they say that what ever’s going on at that time may be even more powerful.
While lunar eclipses are astronomically interesting, these myths and legends don’t change the fact that we can predict and enjoy a lunar eclipse whenever they occur.
Tips for Viewing the 2019 Lunar Eclipse
Since a lunar eclipse is visible across a greater surface of the planet, and it lasts longer, it’s much easier to see a lunar eclipse than a solar eclipse. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your experience.
Safety Tips for Viewing the Lunar Eclipse
Unlike a solar eclipse, there’s no danger from looking at the moon during a lunar eclipse. You don’t need any special equipment or to take extra precautions to enjoy a blood moon.
As the 2019 lunar eclipse is happening in January, be sure to bundle up and stay warm while outside. You don’t want to get too cold to keep you from enjoying the lunar eclipse!
How to Photograph the Lunar Eclipse 2019
Photographing a lunar eclipse is much easier than photographing a solar eclipse, partially because it lasts much longer! While totality during a solar eclipse can last anywhere between 1-10 minutes, totality for the 2019 lunar eclipse will last almost 62 minutes… Plenty of time to get the perfect shot!
Photo credit: US Army Corps of Engineers via Flickr
Since lunar eclipses happen at night, it’s best to consider these astrophotography tips to help you get the perfect shot:
- Be sure to bring the right gear. You’ll need a tripod, remote, and extra batteries to help make sure your camera is stable and you don’t run out of power while shooting photos of the blood moon.
- Set your camera on manual. You’ll want to have a relatively slow shutter speed and a moderately high ISO (800-3200). Set your aperture relatively low too, so you capture enough light from the red moon in your frame.
- Set your focus back from infinity. Though the moon is far away, you’ll want to set you manual focus slightly back from infinity to get a crisp, clear shot.
Here are some other astrophotography tips that are specific to lunar eclipses:
- The lunar eclipse will create lighting problems. It doesn’t seem like the moon is very bright, but as you photograph a lunar eclipse, you’ll find that any sliver of the “fully lit” moon (the part not in the earth’s shadow) will appear ‘blown out’ in your photos. You’ll need to adjust your settings to let in the light from the shadowed part of the moon without washing out the bright part of the moon. This takes practice so…
- Shoot a lot. Shoot several shots with your settings, then adjust and see what you get. A lunar eclipse is a great chance to practice astrophotography skills and still capture great shots.
- Consider composites. As you’ve seen from some of the photos in this article, creating a composite photo of your lunar eclipse shots is a great way to visually display the whole experience!
Don’t forget to read our post on mastering astrophotography with more detail on each of these tips.
When is the Next Lunar Eclipse?
After the January 2019 lunar eclipse, the next lunar eclipse will occur on July 16-17, 2019. However, this is only a partial lunar eclipse – not a total lunar eclipse.
Photo by the author
The next total lunar eclipse will occur May 26, 2021, and will cover parts of North America, South America, East Asia, Australia and Oceania, and all of Antarctica.
We will update this post with data about the next lunar eclipse soon!