Moon takes little dip into Earth’s shadow

Most of the world, apart from the Americas, experienced a rare lunar eclipse yesterday – but one that saw only a tiny part of the Moon dip into dark shadow.

The Moon near mid-eclipse with just the north-western limb darkened
The Moon near mid-eclipse with just the north-western limb darkened. Credit: Paul Sutherland

The whole of the Moon entered the so-called penumbral shadow which caused only a slight dimming that would not be obvious to a casual observer.

At such a stage, an astronaut on the side of the Moon facing us would see the Sun partially covered by the Earth.

But only two per cent of the Moon entered the dark central shadow that the Earth casts in space. From this small region of the lunar surface, the Sun would appeared to have been totally blotted out by the Earth.

Penumbral eclipse
The early penumbral stage of the eclipse, pictured over the sea. Credit: Paul Sutherland

What those with clear skies actually saw yesterday was a dimmed Full Moon appear to have a little nibble out of its north-western limb for a few minutes from 19.51 UT to 20.23 UT, with the bite at its biggest at 20.07 UT. It may have been a small eclipse but it provided a fascinating sight.

The pictures here were taken by the writer from Walmer, near Deal, in South-East England. From here the Moon rose at 19.12 UT with the initial penumbral phase of the eclipse in progress.

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By Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland has been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. He writes regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy, plus he has authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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