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With a once-in-a-few-centuries partial lunar eclipse in the sky, stargazers in North America and northeast Russia are in for a historic treat this week.
November’s full beaver moon will see the longest partial lunar eclipse in over 500 years, lasting over six hours from Thursday night into Friday morning, according to NASA. Parts of South America can catch a glimpse at moonset, and parts of East Asia and Australia might see the eclipse at moonrise.
A partial lunar eclipse occurs when part of the full moon falls under Earth’s shadow (unlike May’s total lunar eclipse) — more than 97% of the moon will be covered at the peak of the eclipse, according to NASA.
The eclipse can be divided into the penumbral and umbral phases, according to Sky & Telescope magazine. The penumbra is the outer edge of the Earth’s shadow, lasting over six hours, and the umbra is the deepest part of the shadow, lasting 3.5 hours.
You won’t have to stay outside the whole time for the experience, but you might have to choose between going to bed late and waking up early, depending on where you live.
NASA forecasts the eclipse to peak at 4:03 a.m. ET on Friday. The eclipse will begin at 1:03 a.m. ET, but the dimming of the moon won’t be noticeable until 2:19 a.m. ET, when the moon falls under the Earth’s umbra. The website timeanddate.com can tell you when you’ll be able to see the eclipse based on where you are.
We can expect clear skies across the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and from Michigan and Ohio to Texas in the United States, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. Most of western Mexico and Southern Baja to Mazatlán will also have a clear view. The eclipse in other regions of North America — most of the Southeast, from the High Plains to the West Coast and in most of New England and Canada — could be obscured by clouds. But don’t be entirely discouraged.
“It is a very long eclipse so be a little patient and try to stay warm,” Myers said.
In full autumnal spirit, the moon will appear a reddish-brown color during the eclipse. The Earth’s atmosphere, which scatters sunlight, will create the effect of a sunset projected onto the moon.
Beaver moon festivities
Known as the beaver moon, November’s full moon will be visible for about three days. The beaver moon is named after the time of year beavers retreat to their shelters for the winter, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
The Cree and Assiniboine peoples call this moon the frost moon as cold weather settles in, and the Tlingit call this the digging moon for foraging animals, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Cultures throughout Southeast Asia also celebrate this moon with festivals, according to NASA. During the Loi Krathong festival in Thailand, people decorate and release baskets into a river. This full moon also marks the Cambodian Water Festival, which features dragon boat races.
Celestial events in December
If you still need to knock stargazing off your 2021 bucket list, there are a handful of celestial events to catch before the year ends.
The Geminid meteor shower will peak from December 13 to 14, and the Ursid meteor shower will peak on December 22, according to EarthSky.
A total eclipse of the sun, when the moon passes between the Earth and sun, will occur on December 4, according to NASA.