A Penumbral Lunar Eclipse Leads the Way to Easter Weekend

Chuck Manges

Ready for Easter? The first of two lunar eclipses for 2016 occurs this week, though it’s an event so subtle, you might not notice it at first glance. We’re talking about Wednesday evening’s (morning for North America) penumbral lunar eclipse. If a total solar eclipse such as the one that crossed Indonesia and the Pacific Ocean earlier this month is the ultimate astronomical experience, then a penumbral lunar eclipse is at the other end of the spectrum, a ghostly shading on the Moon that is barely noticeable.Circumstances: A penumbral eclipse occurs when the Moon just grazes the outer faint shadow of the Earth, missing its dark inner core known as the umbra, as occurs during a total lunar eclipse. Standing on the Earthward-facing side of the surface of the Moon this Wednesday, you’d see a partial solar eclipse looking back at the Earth.The penumbral eclipse begins at 9:39 Universal Time (UT) on Wednesday, March 23rd, reaches its peak at 11:48 UT with the Moon 78% immersed in the Earth’s penumbral shadow, and ends on 13:55 UT. The eclipse occurs during moonrise for Far East Asia Wednesday night, and moonset for the Americas on the morning of Wednesday, March 23rd. The central Pacific will witness the entire eclipse crossing the International Dateline, with the Moon high overhead for observers in Hawaii.Tales of SarosThis particular eclipse is part of saros 142, and is number 18 of 74 in the series, which began on September 19th, 1709. Stick around until July 22nd 2214, and you can witness the very first total lunar eclipse of saros 142, which runs out to November 4th, 2989. If you saw the penumbral lunar eclipse of March 13th, 1998 which was visible from most of North America, then you caught —> Read More