2020 needs a dramatic end, doesn’t it? This is how a “beaver moon” will count down for a breathtaking view

A penumbral lunar eclipse is about to occur. On November 30, 2020 at 9:42 a.m. Universal Time (4:42 a.m. EDT and 1:42 a.m. PDT), a full “Beaver Moon” will move into Earth’s shadow in space.

Don’t expect fireworks. Or a “Blood Moon”. Or something particularly interesting, in fact, except for a strange drop in the moon’s brightness as 83% of our satellite moves in shadow.

So why get excited about this “Beaver Moon Eclipse?”

A lunar eclipse never comes alone; a solar eclipse always occurs about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse.

A solar eclipse occurs when the shadow of the Moon falls on the Earth, while a lunar eclipse occurs when the shadow of the Earth falls on the Moon.

The “Beaver Moon Eclipse” will cause a solar eclipse this year, and it will be the best total solar eclipse. From a “path of totality” through Chile and Argentina on December 14, 2020, observers will experience 2 minutes 9 seconds of sudden and dramatic twilight during the day.

But why will this happen because of the “Beaver Moon?” What is the unusual thing that happens that causes a lunar eclipse and then a solar eclipse? Why doesn’t an eclipse happen all month?

Here’s everything you need to know about the great celestial mechanics at work that make eclipses an occasional dramatic event, but always in groups of two or three:

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Why do lunar eclipses occur?

Eclipses occur when the Sun, Moon, and Earth are aligned. During a lunar eclipse, the Earth sits between the Sun and the Full Moon, and the Moon moves in Earth’s shadow in space.

Everyone on the night side of Earth sees the Moon dimming in brightness (as with this weekend’s penumbral lunar eclipse) or turning partially or fully red (a total lunar eclipse). The latter is caused by the same physics that a sunset causes; the only light that reaches the moon’s surface is first filtered by the earth’s atmosphere, which diffuses blue light.

Why do solar eclipses occur?

During a solar eclipse, a New Moon moves between the Sun and the Earth, casting a narrow shadow across the Earth’s surface. For anyone on the “path to totality,” there is a total solar eclipse in which observers can remove their solar eclipse glasses and gaze at the bright white outer atmosphere of the Sun called its sound. Crown.

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There is a total solar eclipse on December 14, 2020 in South America, another on December 4, 2021 in Antarctica, and after a calm 2020 year, another in Western Australia April 20, 2023.

Solar eclipses only happen because the Moon is just the right distance from Earth to sometimes cover 100% of the Sun. Luckily, the Moon is about 400 times smaller than the Sun, but 400 times closer to Earth. This is why the Sun and the Moon are the same size in our sky.

It’s not quite a perfect match, however. The Moon actually orbits the Earth in an ellipse, so each month it reaches a point furthest from Earth (apogee) and a point where it is closest to Earth (perigee). If the Moon is near apogee during a “season of eclipses” – as it was in december 2019 and in june 2020– the Moon does not quite cover the Sun.

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The result is an annular solar eclipse, colloquially known as the “ring of fire.” They are in fact little more than beautiful partial eclipses; you cannot take off your Eclipse safety glasses.

There is an annular eclipse in Canada June 10, 2021, and another visible from an Oregon path through New Mexico October 14, 2023.

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Why don’t eclipses happen every month?

The 29.3-day Earth orbit of the Moon is tilted relative to the plane around which the Earth revolves around the Sun — the ecliptic. The apparent path of the Moon in our sky is similar, but not the same, as the apparent path of the Sun in our sky.

The difference is approximately 5º tilt, which means that although most New Moons and Full Moons occur below or above the Earth, the Moon’s orbital path still intersects the ecliptic. twice a month. These two points are called lunar nodes. It is only when the Moon is close to these two nodes during New Moon or Full Moon that solar and lunar eclipses, respectively, can occur.

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What is an eclipse season?

When there is a New Moon or a Full Moon while the Moon is near a lunar node, an eclipse occurs. If it hits a node, then the celestial mechanics are such that it is in exactly the right place that it will inevitably strike the other lunar node on the next full moon New Moon, thus causing a second eclipse.

An eclipse season begins when the Moon does just that, and while two eclipses – one solar and one lunar – are usually all you get during an eclipse season, it is not unusual for three eclipses to occur. during an eclipse season.

Disclaimer: I am the publisher of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.

Troy M. Hoffman