Getting geared up…

Celestron…and a little apprehensive about tonight’s supermoon eclipse. I’ve promised the neighbors a driveway spectacle: viewing the biggest full moon of the year, eerily reddened by Earth’s shadow, as seen through my Celestron 8 SE.

Totality peaks at a reasonable 7:11pm, Pacific Time. (Seven eleven…hmm, the date of my first total solar eclipse. Bodes well.) Beginner tip: Always refer to the astronomical date and times as reported in your local newspaper. If your paper is lame, doublecheck with another local source. I nearly had a heart attack learning that the eclipse would be on Monday while I was reading Sky at Night—published in the UK.

I’ll set up early and paw through my eyepiece collection to make sure I have the right one well in advance of the arrival of the spectators. I don’t think I’ll need the clock drive. (If you can’t track to the moon, your telescope privileges should be revoked.)

Looking forward to viewing the darkened blood moon, which I assume will reduce the light blowout that makes observing a full moon difficult. Skies are clear here in Central Oregon—should be a beautiful night. I’ll try my hand at a lunar sketch, using this tutorial.

Now: to concoct a drink recipe for tonight. Suggestions? I’m thinking something red…

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About the Supermoon Eclipse—tonight!

blood moonTonight’s lunar show is a three-banger: a harvest moon, a blood moon, and a supermoon, all at once.

What is a supermoon?

Tonight, the moon will appear in the sky to be nearly 15% bigger (and 30% brighter) than your average full moon.

Why?

The moon will be at “perigee”—it’s closest position to Earth as it orbits around our planet. Tonight will be the nearest moon of 2015.

It’s sometimes called a harvest moon, right?

Right, and that’s wrong. The supermoon isn’t always a harvest moon—the full moon that shines near the fall equinox. But it is tonight.

What is a blood moon?

A nickname for a lunar eclipse—which also occurs tonight. Our eclipsed moon looks red because of the smoke and particulates in Earth’s atmosphere. The level of redness will vary due to the position of the sun at the time of the eclipse. (Tonight’s eclipse, as seen from Central Oregon, will be a little less red than usual.)

Is the supermoon always eclipsed?

No, that’s what’s cool! The last time there was a supermoon/blood moon combo was 30 years ago. You’ll have to wait 18 years to see it again.

Should I be worried?

Damn right you should. Nutjobs everywhere are warning that it’s a sure sign of the coming apocalypse. (NASA says, and I’m paraphrasing, CTFD.)

How do I view it?

Just go outside and look up. No telescope or special eyewear required. The Oregon Observatory will have scopes set up at Sunriver. Too lazy to go outside? NASA will be hosting a live feed.

When?

The total lunar eclipse will last about 70 minutes, with partial phases beginning around 5pm Pacific Time. After totality at around 7pm, the moon will continue to be shadowed until around 10pm. Exact timetables are crowding the interwebs today; here’s one. The early hour means it won’t be very dark; try to drive out of town to someplace remote for better viewing.