Rare lunar eclipse coming

By Dave Maxwell

Lincoln County Record

People throughout the United States were excited to see the total eclipse of the sun in 2017.

And while the U.S. won’t be getting as good a look at that again until 2024, parts of the country will be able to see a rare lunar eclipse in 2018, and it happens in Nevada on Jan. 31.

Early that morning, about 3:45 a.m., a total eclipse of the moon will occur.

What makes this eclipse so special according to astronomers writing in Space.com, is that it will happen during a blue moon, or the second full moon of the month. Two full moons in a given month is noteworthy in itself. But this blue moon, coupled with the lunar eclipse, has not happened visibly over the U.S. since 1866 and the next one will not occur until 2028.

Space.com reports that not everyone in the United States will get to see it in full, but  Alaska, Hawaii, and northwest Canada will, weather permitting. In Nevada, residents should see at least part of the eclipse, depending on weather conditions that morning. More eastern parts of North and Central America will have a shorter show. The eclipse begins at 3:48 a.m.

The first full moon of the month happened Jan. 2.

As reported in many well-known encyclopedias, a lunar eclipse can occur only the night of a full moon. The type and length of an eclipse depend upon the moon’s location relative to its orbital nodes.

A total lunar eclipse has the direct sunlight completely blocked by the earth’s shadow. The only light seen is refracted through the earth’s shadow. This light looks red for the same reason that the sunset looks red, due to rayleigh scattering of the more blue light. Because of its reddish color, a total lunar eclipse is sometimes called a blood moon.

Christopher Columbus is said to once have used the prediction of a total lunar eclipse on February 29, 1504, to frighten the natives of Jamaica where he and his crew had landed and taken the liberty of eating a great deal of the inhabitants’ food, with the natives refusing to give them any more. Columbus, with his advanced knowledge of lunar patterns, threatened to take the moon away if his demands were not met. During the eclipse, the natives begged Columbus to bring the moon back in its full form, and he agreed if food would be provided for his crew. The next day, the inhabitants gave Columbus and his crew the food they desired.

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