Step outside now to see the last total lunar eclipse of the decade

By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
January 20, 2019, 10:32:34 PM EST


The moon will turn red over the United States on Sunday night during the last total lunar eclipse of the decade.

A total lunar eclipse occurs during a full moon when the moon passes directly through the Earth’s shadow, causing it to turn rusty orange or dark red in color.

The lunar eclipse will be visible across all of North America and South America and partially visible in Europe and Africa on the night of Jan. 20 into the early hours of Jan. 21.

This will be the first total lunar eclipse visible in its entirety across the U.S. since Dec. 21, 2010.


Visit Slooh.com to snap and share your own photos from this live event, and interact with our hosts and guests, and personally control Slooh’s telescopes. Courtesy of Slooh.

The best viewing conditions are expected across a swath of the south-central and southeastern U.S where it will be mainly cloud-free.

“It’s going to be very cold with temperatures in the teens and 20s F across the South, north of Interstate 10," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said, so people will need to bundle up when heading outside to look at the moon.

Residents across parts of the Northeast and Midwest may not be able to see the celestial light show due to widespread clouds.

"The worst of the major winter storm that slammed the Midwest and Northeast [this] weekend will be gone, but there can be lingering clouds that would make viewing the lunar eclipse a no-go across northern New England and places from the eastern Great Lakes to the central Appalachians," according to Pydynowski.

The sky will clear for the show along the mid-Atlantic coast, but it will be bitterly cold with biting winds.

Clouds can cover over much of the western U.S., but there could be enough breaks in the clouds for people to see the eclipse from Southern California through Colorado.

Eclipse Jan 20 new


Folks planning to see the moon turn red will need to stay up late on Sunday night as the eclipse will not reach its peak until just before midnight.

The first phase of the eclipse, known as the penumbral phase, will begin at 9:36 p.m. EST. However, the moon may not become noticeably darker until the partial phase of the eclipse begins at 10:34 p.m. EST.

The most-anticipated part of the eclipse, totality, will begin just before midnight and last for around an hour as the moon passes through Earth’s innermost shadow. This is when the moon will turn rusty orange or red in color.

The total eclipse is set to end around 12:43 a.m. EST, after which the moon will gradually regain its normal color.

Outside of the continental U.S., conditions will be generally clear across inland portions of Alaska. While some clouds could obscure the view in Anchorage, the sky over the Aleutians will likely be overcast. The total eclipse will last one hour, beginning at 7:41 p.m. AKST.

Generally good viewing conditions are expected over Hawaii. Here, the total eclipse will begin at 6:41 p.m. and last until 7:43 p.m local time.

Those that miss this eclipse will need to wait until May 26, 2021, for the next opportunity to witness a total lunar eclipse.

jan 20 21 lunar eclipse times


Sunday night’s total lunar eclipse will appear similar to those in the past, but has been given the unofficial nickname of the ‘super blood wolf moon.’

“Although it's a bit of a silly-sounding name, it does have a basis in some real phenomena,” said Caleb Scharf, director of astrobiology at Columbia University.

The term blood moon has emerged in recent years due to the color the moon turns during the height of a total lunar eclipse.

“‘Blood Moon' is not a term used in astronomy. It’s more of a popular phrase, perhaps because it sounds so dramatic. It simply refers to a 'total lunar eclipse,'” according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac website.

This eclipse also falls during the first supermoon of 2019 when the moon appears slightly larger than normal.

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AccuWeather Astronomy Twitter page

Preceding the terms ‘supermoon’ and ‘blood moon,’ a Full Wolf Moon is simply the name bestowed upon January’s full moon.

“In Native American and early Colonial times, the full moon for January was called the Full Wolf Moon. It appeared when wolves howled in hunger outside the villages,” the Old Farmer’s Almanac reported.

These three terms have been combined to form a long-winded nickname for the upcoming lunar eclipse.

evergreen eclipse


No special equipment or glasses are needed to view the lunar eclipse, but people may want to bundle up when stepping outside on the chilly January night.

“A pair of basic binoculars would be fun - you'll definitely get more out of the experience,” Scharf said.

Binoculars or a telescope will reveal more details on the moon’s surface, such as smaller craters speckled across its surface.

Lunar eclipse Jan 28 image

The perigee full moon, or supermoon appears red on the autumn sky from the vicinity of Salgotarjan, located northeast of Budapest, Hungary, early on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (MTI via AP/Peter Komka)


The eclipse will also bring a window for photographers to take breathtaking pictures of the night sky, as the eclipsed moon will greatly reduce the amount of natural light pollution filling the sky.

The darkened sky will also make it easier to spot some stray shooting stars.

Stargazers staying awake after the eclipse is over will also be able to see to planets make an unusually close approach to each other in the early morning sky.

Venus and Jupiter will appear side-by-side in the southeastern sky between 5 a.m. local time and sunrise. These planets will be hard to miss, as they are the brightest planets in the night sky .


Questions or comments? Email Brian Lada at Brian.Lada@accuweather.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter!


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