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January 31

"Penumbral Lunar Eclipse 09 Feb 09" by bianca polak. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/), via Flickr. Photo Credit: "Penumbral Lunar Eclipse 09 Feb 09" by bianca polak. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/), via Flickr.

Today in Science

Lunar Eclipses

There are three types of lunar eclipses: total, partial, and penumbral. They occur when the full moon, the earth, and the sun line up in roughly a straight line and when the moon passes through the earth's shadow, preventing the sun's light from reaching the moon. Unlike with a solar eclipse, where an observer must be within the area upon which the shadow falls in order to witness it, an observer of a lunar eclipse must simply be watching a darkened night sky (as opposed to a daylit one).

If the complete body of the moon passes into the earth's umbra, that is a total lunar eclipse. A total lunar eclipse cycle consists of a penumbral eclipse, a partial eclipse, a total eclipse, a partial eclipse, and a penumbral eclipse as the moon and earth move.

Today's total lunar eclipse begins at 5:51 a.m. EST, reaches maximum eclipse coverage at 8:29 a.m., and concludes at 11:08 a.m. The next total lunar eclipse will occur on July 27, but will not be visible from North America. Today's moon is also both a supermoon and a blue moon.

A partial lunar eclipse happens if only a portion of the moon passes into the earth's umbra, the dark area where the earth completely blocks light from the sun from reaching the moon. The next partial lunar eclipse, which will not be viewable in North America, occurs on Aug. 11.

A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when a portion (or all) of the moon passes into the earth's penumbra, the area at the edges of the earth's shadow, where some sunlight still can be observed. This can be hard for untrained observers to detect because the moon appears only slightly darker than usual. The next penumbral eclipse will take place on Jan. 10–11, 2020.

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