UW Today

January 18, 2000

MEDIA ADVISORY: Lunar eclipse will be spectacular in Northwest – if weather cooperates

News and Information

The first total lunar eclipse in more than two years will occur Thursday and, barring cloudy skies, Northwest residents should get some spectacular views.

The University of Washington Astronomy Department has created a special link from its Web site – http://www.astro.washington.edu – to provide information about what viewers in the Northwest can expect to see during the eclipse.

Unlike a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse is safe to view with the naked eye and can even be viewed indoors, through east- and south-facing windows. Because of weather, typically only one or two lunar eclipses are visible in the Northwest per decade. It appears conditions might allow this eclipse to be seen, and those in Eastern Washington are particularly likely to have a clear view.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when a full moon passes through the Earth’s shadow as the moon, Earth and sun form a straight line. The eclipse will begin at 4:40 p.m. PST and will conclude at 11:24 p.m.

During the eclipse, viewers will see the moon turn a dull red-orange, and some otherwise hard-to-view space bodies will become clear. The brightest objects (other than the moon) will be Jupiter and Saturn hovering together high above the southern horizon.

With the help of binoculars, as many as four of Jupiter’s moons – the same ones first viewed by Galileo 400 years ago – should be visible. Saturn’s rings also should be visible, though magnification of at least 10 is necessary for a good view.