Another Eclipse Is On the Horizon for Tech Stargazers

Another Eclipse Is On the Horizon for Tech Stargazers

The good news is that we don't need special eyeglasses to watch the Jan. 31, 2018, lunar eclipse. The bad news is that we won't see totality as the moon will set before it happens. 

James Sowell, director of the Georgia Tech Observatory, has good and bad news for those wanting to watch Wednesday’s total lunar eclipse.

“The good news is that this event can be safely seen with the naked eye. No eye protection is needed,” Sowell says, referring to the memorable Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse, which drew thousands to Tech Green on the first day of classes last year. “Eclipses are great visual experiences.”

They are — when you can actually see them, that is. The bad news from Sowell is that Wednesday’s moments of totality will be hidden from the Tech community. “The Earth’s shadow will start crossing the moon about 6:48 a.m. EST. The moon sets at 7:30 a.m.  We can see partial aspects of the eclipse, but unfortunately, we will not get to see any of the totality.”

For those planning to rise early to see what they can of the lunar eclipse, Wednesday morning’s forecast calls for clear skies, says Sowell, who is also a senior academic professional in the School of Physics. The Georgia Tech Observatory will not be open because the field of view of its telescope “is just a small area of the moon,” he adds.

The eclipsed moon will be the second full moon in January, so it qualifies as a “blue moon,” Sowell says, although its color will not be blue. It will also be a “blood moon” because the red part of the sunlight’s spectrum will illuminate Earth’s satellite, but the redness would be visible only during totality.

The eclipse barely misses occurring when the moon’s orbit brings the moon closest to Earth. “When the moon is at its closest, it should appear a little larger in the sky.” That happens on Tuesday, Jan. 30.