Q&A about viewing the total lunar eclipse on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015 | Morehead Planetarium and Science Center
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Q&A about viewing the total lunar eclipse on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015

Image Credit: Jayme Hanzak

BY AMY SAYLE

This coming Sunday, September 27, 2015, the full moon will move into Earth’s shadow, creating a lunar eclipse. The eclipsed Moon should be a beautiful shade of deep red or orange.

As long as the weather cooperates, this is an especially nice eclipse for those of us in the eastern United States. We get to see every stage of the eclipse, the Moon will be well positioned fairly high in the sky, and most of the action happens before midnight.

When is the lunar eclipse?

The main action starts Sunday, September 27, 2015, with a partial eclipse beginning at 9:07 p.m. Eastern time. The eclipse is total from 10:11 to 11:23 p.m. Eastern, and then becomes partial again, ending at 12:27 a.m. Eastern time on Monday morning, September 28.

Where do you need to be?

  • You must be on the nighttime side of Earth during the eclipse times. If you’re reading this from the continental United States, you’re good to go. (Note for any readers in the Pacific time zone: The Moon doesn’t rise above your horizon until the eclipse is already in progress.)
  • You need to be under a clear (enough) sky.
  • You need an outdoor view that isn’t too obstructed by trees or buildings. For those in the eastern U.S., the Moon will be fairly high in the southeast during most of the eclipse. If just outside your home doesn’t work, try walking around the neighborhood to get a different view.

What if your sky has light pollution?

That’s okay. Dark skies are less important for viewing a lunar eclipse than for events such as meteor showers.

However, don’t be surprised if you have to hunt around the sky for a moment to find the Moon. Although the Moon doesn’t disappear from view when fully eclipsed, it can look dark enough that it can be a little harder to spot than you might have expected.

Do you need a telescope or binoculars?

No, all you need are your eyes. But the Moon will be a lovely sight through binoculars or a telescope.

Where and when is Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s skywatching session?

On Sunday, September 27, 2015, join Morehead Planetarium and Science Center between 9 and 11 p.m. for a free skywatching session in front of our building, at the Morehead Sundial.

Important: This skywatching event is weather permitting! Before you head out to join us, see if the skywatching page on our website has a cancellation notice.

If the weather behaves, Morehead educators and volunteers from the Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society will supply telescopes and binoculars for you to look at the Moon and other objects.

How can I learn more about this and other eclipses?

Before the skywatching session, we’ll offer two planetarium programs that will introduce you to the current night sky and include information about eclipses. We’ll simulate the Sept. 27th lunar eclipse, as well as another upcoming eclipse you should definitely make plans to see.

Both programs happen rain or shine, and regular admission prices apply:

  • Star Families: Eclipses. Sunday September 27, at 4:30 p.m. This is the better program to choose if anyone in your group is 12 years old or younger.
  • Carolina Skies: Eclipse edition. Sunday, September 27, at 8 p.m. This is the better program to choose if everyone in your group is an adult or teen.

Where can I park for the Morehead programs and the skywatching session?

The Morehead Lot in front of the building is a public pay lot controlled by the University. Downtown Chapel Hill offers other several nearby parking options that are free on Sundays. This includes the metered spaces on Franklin and Henderson Streets.

What’s all the “supermoon” hype about?

You may have heard that this lunar eclipse is special because it’s a so-called “supermoon” eclipse, with the Moon appearing a bit bigger than on average because the Moon will be near perigee (closest point in its orbit around Earth).

But are you likely to be able to tell the difference between the size of this full moon and other full moons you’ve seen? Short answer: No.

When’s the next total lunar eclipse?

If you miss this total lunar eclipse, you’ll have to wait awhile for another. The next total lunar eclipse doesn’t happen until 2018. And the next total lunar eclipse in which totality will be visible from North Carolina isn’t until 2019.

Image Credit: Jayme Hanzak