Penumbral Eclipse

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Penumbral Eclipse

Anyone standing on the Earth-facing hemisphere of the Moon tonight would see a partial solar eclipse, with Earth covering part of the Sun’s disk. From here on Earth, however, all we’ll see is a penumbral lunar eclipse. The eclipse is so faint that few will notice a difference — the full Moon will have only a slight shading.

A penumbral eclipse occurs when the alignment of the Sun, Earth, and Moon isn’t perfect. The Moon catches only the outer part of Earth’s shadow, the penumbra, which isn’t very dark. Tonight, you might notice a light shading across the southern limb of the Moon at the eclipse’s peak, at 1:14 a.m. Central Time.

Nature has a way of balancing the books, though. Eclipses occur in “seasons,” with two or three eclipses — lunar and solar — in about five weeks. Individual eclipses are separated by two weeks. When one eclipse in the season is poor, the other usually is much better.

That’s certainly the case with this set. Tonight’s eclipse is the first of two in the current season. The second eclipse, on April 8th, is a total solar eclipse. The path of totality will slice from Texas to Maine. Skies along that path will turn dark, and the Sun’s faint outer atmosphere will encircle the Moon with a silvery glow. Most of the U.S. outside that path will see a partial eclipse.

So challenge yourself to see the penumbral eclipse tonight, then treat yourself to the easy-to-see solar eclipse two weeks later.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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