Got plans for the weekend? You do now, friend! There’s a Supermoon Eclipse on Sunday night into Monday morning—and we’re all going to watch it. Here’s how, when, and also why to catch the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse.
Top image: A lunar eclipse (though not a Supermoon Eclipse, yet...) Bill Ingalls / NASA
A “Supermoon” is simply what happens when a full moon coincides with the Moon being at its closest point to Earth. Reports you’ve heard of an OMG GIANT MOON are exaggerated—yes, the Supermoon will look bigger, but it tops out at 14% larger. It’s a noticeable difference, and certainly worth checking out, but not a particularly rare one.
Image: Supermoon vs. Regular Moon / NASA
But, while neither a Supermoon or a lunar eclipse are rare on their own, the instance of the two together is—and can also be quite visually stunning. During a lunar eclipse, the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow and hiding in the Earth’s Shadow shades the Moon a distinct red color. On September 27, we’ll be seeing both of these two phenomenon paired together for the first time since 1982 to create a Supermoon Eclipse—and it’s the only shot you’ll get at seeing it until 2033.
Image: Animation by NASA’s scientific visualization studio
Some of the rules you’ll want to keep in mind for Supermoon Eclipse viewing are the same as the general rules for checking out any astronomical event. You’ll want to be someplace with good open skyviews (particularly relevant to any mountain and/or skyscraper dwellers). You’ll want to be able to look up for long stretches without craning your neck—blankets or lawn chairs can help with that. It’s also night, and it is (officially!) Fall. So you’ll want to bring light, warm layers in which to cozy up in. Coffee or a flask of something also makes a nice addition to any chilly night astronomy party.
Image: Moon over Kennedy Space Center / Bill Ingalls, NASA
There are also however, a couple things specific to just Supermoon Eclipse viewing that you’ll want to keep in mind.
Darkness is, naturally, your friend, but it won’t be quite as paramount as it is to most astronomical viewing like, say, checking out a meteor shower. Regardless of how bright your nightsky is, you’ll still be able to see the Moon pretty easily (barring any trouble with clouds). You are, however, going to want to keep a pretty close eye on the time.
The Supermoon eclipse is set to peak at 10:47 p.m. (EDT). You may have heard that the Supermoon lunar eclipse lasts for exactly 1 hour and 12 minutes. That’s true, but that’s just the total eclipse portion of it. The partial Supermoon eclipse, is also likely going to be pretty dramatic and worth catching.
Image: Lunar eclipse progression, Keith Burns / NASA
To catch the start of the partial Supermoon eclipse, you’re going to want to be there by 9:07 p.m. (EDT). At 10:11 p.m., the total eclipse will start and hold on until 11:23 p.m. (EDT). By 11:24 p.m. (EDT) the total Supermoon eclipse will be over, but you can still catch the waning partial all the way up until the early morning hours of Monday at 12:27 a.m. (EDT).
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of viewing, just one more thing...
OH MY GOD. The Supermoon! It brought an asteroid with it, and it’s headed straight for us! BRACE YOURS—
Guys. Guys, no, this has gone far enough. Just stop.
Contrary to some reports, there is absolutely not a killer asteroid speeding toward us, set to smash directly into Puerto Rico on the very night of the Supermoon Eclipse, triggering a worldwide global cataclysm.
Image: A flipped view, of what the lunar eclipse would look like, from the POV of the Moon / NASA
In fact, not only is there not a “killer asteroid” headed for us, there is no large asteroid anywhere near us at all within two weeks of that night. And even if there was, the mechanics of an eclipse have literally nothing to do with the trajectory of asteroids.
Look, sometimes we can untangle whatever weird game of Science Telephone gave us the latest weird astronomy conspiracy theory and trace the rumor back to its source for you. But this time, I’ve got to tell you: I really don’t know where this one came from.
Suffice it to say though that, if you do happen to miss this year’s Supermoon Lunar Eclipse, it will not be because an asteroid extinguished all life around the globe in a hail of fire, wave, and dust. In fact, you should have plenty of years left around to look back at the recording of NASA’s live Supermoon Eclipse broadcast, until the next time it rolls around in 18 years.