The night of January 20th/21st, 2019 marks the only total lunar eclipse visible from the Americas this year – one which also includes Europe and parts of Africa (for those willing to either stay up or get up very early).
Dubbed by some a “Super Blood Wolf Moon”, the eclipse is somewhat unique in that it brings together three lunar events. “Super” refers to the fact that the Moon’s orbit around Earth is not circular but an ellipse. It varies from 362,600 km (225,300 mi) to 405,400 km (251,900 mi) on average. This means that at perigee, the Moon can look up to 30% “brighter” than it does at apogee, and is thus a “supermoon”.
“Blood” is derived from the fact that during an eclipse, the Earth lies between the Sun and the Moon, and the Earth’s atmosphere naturally absorbs more of the blue and green wavelengths, thus leaving more of the red wavelength to strike the surface of the Moon, giving it a bloody hue. A “wolf moon” refers to the first full Moon of January – which is winter in the northern hemisphere and the time when wolf howls were most often heard in the wild.
The entire January 20th/21st eclipse will be visible from start to end from all of both North and South America, and from the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Norway and parts of Sweden and northern Russia. Elsewhere in Europe, the eclipse, including totality – when the Earth’s shadow fully covers the Moon – will be visible across Western Europe, but elements of the entire event – such as of the part of penumbral phase or parts of the partial and total phases.
A timetable of the principal points in the eclipse is provided below.
|Event||UTC / GMT||EST||PST|
|Penumbral Eclipse begins||21 Jan, 02:36:29||20 Jan, 21:36:29||20 Jan, 18:36:29|
|Partial Eclipse begins||21 Jan, 03:33:54||20 Jan, 22:33:54||20 Jan, 19:33:54|
|Full Eclipse begins||21 Jan, 04:41:17||20 Jan, 23:41:17||20 Jan, 20:41:17|
|Maximum Eclipse||21 Jan, 05:12:14||21 Jan, 00:12:14||20 Jan, 21:12:14|
|Full Eclipse ends||21 Jan, 05:43:15||21 Jan, 00:43:15||20 Jan, 21:43:15|
|Partial Eclipse ends||21 Jan, 06:50:39||21 Jan, 01:50:39||20 Jan, 22:50:39|
|Penumbral Eclipse ends||21 Jan, 07:48:02||21 Jan, 02:48:02||20 Jan, 23:48:02|
If you cannot view the eclipse directly, there are a number of other ways it can be seen and tracked:
- Livestreams available from:
- Via mobile / tablet apps:
For a Brief Time, There Was Life on the Moon
On January 14th, 2019, the China National Space Administration confirmed that, albeit briefly, there was life on the Moon.
Admittedly, the life in question was not alien or natural to the Moon, and had been placed there by the Chinese themselves, but it was still a major milestone in the Chang’e 4 mission and China’s lunar aspirations. At its heart is an experiment referred to at the Lunar Micro Ecosystem (LME).
A 2.6 kg (5.7 lb) sealed stainless-steel cylinder containing bioscience test loads, LME designed to test whether Earth plants and organisms can grow in the harsh conditions and reduced gravity on the lunar surface. It includes six types of organisms: cotton seed, potato, rapeseed, Arabidopsis thaliana (a flowering plant), as well as yeast and fruit fly eggs.
The unit has environmental systems keep the container hospitable and Earth-like, except for the low Lunar gravity, low temperatures and radiation. It had been hoped that together, the mix of fly eggs and plants would form a simple synergy: the eggs would hatch with the larvae producing carbon dioxide to assist with plant growth, with the plants producing oxygen (and food) for the fly larvae to progress to flies; the yeast would then help with regulating the carbon dioxide and oxygen. This type of research into developing closed ecological systems is seen as a means of helping to develop biological life support systems for long duration space missions in orbit, on the Moon and to other planets.
Within a few hours after landing on January 3rd, 2019, the biosphere’s temperature was adjusted to 24°C and the seeds were watered. The cotton seed was the first to sprout, as seen in images recorded on January 7th, 2019, that were included in the report issued by CNSA. It was also indicated that the rapeseed and potato seeds had also sprouted and were growing well as of Saturday, January 12th, although no photos were included in the report. It’s not clear what happened with the other seed or the fruit fly eggs.
The celebrations on the success of the project were short-lived however, with the onset of the lunar night. In the region Chang’e 4 occupies on the far side of the Moon, temperatures started to fall rapidly at the end of the two-week lunar day, and as the LME chamber does not have any heating systems, it was reported on January 16th that the sprouts had died due to the cold, and the experiment is now regarded as being “over”.
Despite this, the Chinese believe they learned enough from LME to be of use in designing future tests to determine how terrestrial organisms fair in a sealed and pressurized lunar environment.