A spectacular lunar eclipse will grace the night /morning skies across a large part of the world on the night of November 18/19, bringing with it many names. “Frost Moon”, “Flower Moon”, and many other adjectives are being used to describe this sight. According to NASA, for U.S. East Coast observers, the partial eclipse begins a little after 2 am, reaching its maximum at 4 in the morning. For observers on the West Coast, that translates to beginning just after 11 pm with a maximum at 1 am. As an added bonus, it’ll be the longest lunar eclipse of the century.
This lunar eclipse occurs during a “micromoon” event. Many have heard about a “supermoon”; that is when a full or new moon coincides with perigee, the closest that the Moon comes to the Earth in its elliptical orbit. A micromoon is simply the opposite, with the full moon occuring at the time of apogee, which is where the moon is as far as it gets from Earth during its elliptical orbit.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly behind Earth and into its shadow. This can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are exactly or very closely aligned, with Earth between the other two. A lunar eclipse can occur only on the night of a full moon. Unlike a solar eclipse in which its dangerous to stare at the sun, there is no danger associated with watching a lunar eclipse at night. As such, no special eclipse glasses are required to safely watch the Moon.
As long as Mother Nature cooperates with clear skies, most of the U.S. will be able to see at least part of the eclipse, with places away from south Florida and the southeastern U.S. coastline able to get the best views in the country. Alaska and Hawaii will also be able to get a good view, weather-permitting.
The November 2021 lunar eclipse will also be the longest, thanks to its micromoon phase. Because it is so far away, it’ll remain in the Earth’s shaddow longer: the lunar eclipse will last an amazing 3 hours and 28 minutes long. This compares to the last long lunar eclipse in 2018 which only lasted 1 hour 42 minutes.