2019's first Solar Eclipse, Super Blood Wolf Moon: Here's when and how to watch

Neither of them will be fully visible from India, but there's no reason to miss out on the fun, eh?

Stargazers have had a parade of treats welcoming them into the new year with a meteor shower earlier this week, and two eclipses before January ends.

Coming up on 6 January is a partial solar eclipse, with the sun and Moon falling into a partial alignment. Just a couple of weeks later, a lunar trifecta will bring us the only total lunar eclipse till 2021 – a Super Blood Wolf Moon, on 20 and 21 January.

There are two of six eclipses this year, most of which aren't visible from India.

Just so you don't miss either of these celestial sights, here's all you need to know about when and where to watch these events, and what to expect.

Partial solar eclipse on 6 January

When and where to watch

On 6 January, the year's first partial solar eclipse will take place.

Starting in early hours around 5 am in the morning till 9 am, the eclipse will be visible to people in North-East Asia, China, parts of Siberia, Korea and Japan, but won't be visible from India.

What to expect

The eclipse will be partial, as the alignment between the Sun and the Moon won't be exact. The result is a view of the Moon that covers the Sun only slightly.

NASA has created an interactive path of the eclipse using Google Maps to track the trajectory of the eclipse. If you're lucky to be anywhere within the path of the eclipse on 6 January, don't forget to wear protective eyewear when you catch a glimpse of the action!

The partial solar eclipse as seen from Calgary, Alberta, on May 20, 2012, captured at maximum eclipse. Image: AmazingSky

The partial solar eclipse as seen from Calgary, Alberta, on May 20, 2012, captured at maximum eclipse. Image: AmazingSky

How to view it

Watching a solar eclipse can be harmful to the eyes without some safety equipment. Looking right at the Sun can cause permanent eye damage within seconds on any given day, and the eclipse is no different.

Seeing the eclipse on an optical instrument through a screen – your mobile phones, televisions or camera screens are perfectly okay. Binoculars, camera viewfinders and telescopes, however, can end up causing instant and permanent blindness.

The trust, old-school way to watch an eclipse safely is crafting a DIY solar eclipse viewer, like this one made out of a cereal box:

Watch it from the comfort of your couch

For those of us that are in India, there's no reason to put yourself through all that trouble at 5 am. We might be better off, what with a live stream of the entire event, courtesy of the good people at Transparenskies.

However, the second celestial eclipse this month will be worth getting off the couch for.

Super Blood Wolf Moon on 20 and 21 January

On the night of 20-21 January, a lunar trifecta will grace the skies, giving us a glimpse of what people are calling a 'Super Blood Wolf Moon'.

The only total lunar eclipse in 2019, too, unfortunately, won't be directly visible to us in India, what with us not being in right half of the world to witness it.

What a super wolf blood moon looks like in progress.

What a super wolf blood moon looks like in progress.

What is a Super Wolf Blood Moon eclipse?

The long name is no doubt a mouthful, but what it does do well is emphasise how rare such an event really is!

A Super Wolf Blood Moon combines three separate lunar events in a single, super rare spectacle.

  • When our moon is at its furthest distance from Earth in its orbit and its "full" phase in the cycle, it is called a supermoon.
  • Americans traditionally call a full moon that takes place in January, a 'full wolf moon' from early colonial times, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac.
  • Any ‘blood moon’ is a colloquial reference to a total lunar eclipse.

When and where is the Super Wolf Blood Moon going to take place?

The total lunar eclipse will last an hour and 2 minutes, according to NASA's lunar eclipse projections. The full display — from the beginning of the partial eclipse to the end — will last 3 hours and 17 minutes, but won't be visible from India.

Europe, North and South America have a front row seat to the dramatic spectacle, which will be the last total lunar eclipse for a long time. The next total lunar eclipse is expected only in May 2021.

[Small consolation for the other half of the planet missing out on the action this January: a partial lunar eclipse is due on 16 July, 2019 that will be visible from Europe, Africa and Asia, in which half the moon will don a reddish hue.]

What will be visible to us is a full moon, like any other, as the moon will be below the horizon during the eclipse.

Timeanddate.com has an exact timeline for each stage of the Super Wolf Blood Moon based on where in the world you are.

What happens in a Super Wolf Blood Moon?

Sunlight is scattered by the Earth's atmosphere in a lunar eclipse to produce multiple shades of red that are visible to us during sunset and sunrise. This happens because sunlight enters Earth's atmosphere at a very specific angle, which gives the appearance of all of Earth's sunrises and sunsets reaching the moon at once.

The event could elevate ocean tides slightly within a day or two of the event, explains timeanddate.com.

If there's any chance you're in a part of the world from where you can spot the Super Wolf Blood Moon, you don't need any special equipment to view it. It's best to see the eclipse in clear or minimally cloudy skies and away from city lights from a terrace or in a garden for the best experience.

Watch it right off your couch

For us in India, we're going to miss the live action what with us falling just outside the region of visibility.

However, timeanddate.com has a live stream of the event to fight that FOMO-feeling:

When it the next lunar eclipse?

The last total lunar eclipse took place in July 2018, which was clearly visible over India, countries in Central Asia and Africa.

The first total lunar eclipse after the Super Blood Wolf moon on 21 January will be on 26 May, 2021, visible from North and South America, and East Asia.

 

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