Watch Full Moon grow dim in weekend penumbral eclipse

A penumbral eclipse of the Moon occurs this Friday night/Saturday morning, depending on where you are in the world to see it.

Moon in penumbral eclipse
This photo was taken during progress of a total lunar eclipse, but at the zone in the Earth’s shadow where the Moon will be at the maximum stage of the penumbral eclipse. Image credit: Paul Sutherland/Skymania

Though never as spectacular as a total lunar eclipse, they are worth seeing because the usually brilliant Full Moon will dim quite noticeably.

This makes it easier to see the dry lunar seas, or maria, through binoculars because there will not be the usual glare to make viewing difficult. You should also be able to see, with the naked eye too, that one edge of the Moon becomes darker near mid eclipse as it comes close to the central shadow, known as the umbra.

If you were there on the Moon in that region, you would see the Earth blotting out most of the Sun in a partial eclipse.

The entire eclipse is visible around the middle of the night from Europe, including the UK and Ireland, Africa, and north-eastern South America. Across the whole of the mainland United States, apart from western Alaska, the eclipse will already be taking place when the Moon rises. From the Far East, the Moon will set during the eclipse, and from Australasia no eclipse is visible.

The eclipse begins when the Moon starts to enter the penumbra at 22:34 UT on February 10. Mid eclipse occurs at 00:44 UT on the 11th, and it is all over when the trailing edge of the Moon leaves the Earth’s outer shadow at 02:53 UT.

The eclipse will be bright enough to photograph easily, though the size of the Moon is smaller than you might imagine, so you will either need to zoom in with a pocket camera, or fit a telephoto lens to your SLR. Automatic settings should work since the camera will have enough light to measure and focus on. If you can, use a tripod and cable release or delayed exposure to avoid camera shake.

What is an eclipse of the Moon?

Penumbral eclipse stages
As the Earth moves from west to east through the Earth’s shadow, which is otherwise invisible in space, these are key timings for stages of the event.

What else can you see in the night sky this month?

Guide to the Moon

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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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