Monday, September 28, 2015

Rare Supermoon Total Lunar Eclipse Dazzles Skywatchers

The Sept. 27 supermoon total lunar eclipse seen over Menominee, Michigan. Credit: Duane Clausen

The first "supermoon" total lunar eclipse in more than three decades put on a stunning show for millions of stargazers across the U.S. and other parts of the world Sunday night. A little after 9 p.m. Eastern time, the full moon began disappearing into the shadow cast by the Earth, and by 10:11 p.m. EDT it was completely hidden in a total lunar eclipse. Along the way, many saw the moon bathed in a reddish glow -- a so-called "blood moon" that results when the moon is hit by sunlight bent by the Earth's atmosphere.

"It's a beautiful sight in the nighttime sky," said Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at Chicago's Adler Planetarium. "It's a way of connecting us to the universe at large. It gives us this view that there's a bigger picture than just what we're concerned with in our daily lives."

It was the first time since 1982 that a total lunar eclipse has coincided with a supermoon -- a full moon that's at the closest point of its elliptical orbit to Earth, making it appear bigger and brighter than usual.

This lunar eclipse was visible in North and South America as well as Europe, Africa and some parts of West Asia.

In the United States, observatories are hosting a variety of festivities to showcase the eclipse and supermoon.

A perigee full moon, or supermoon, is seen during a total lunar eclipse on Sunday, September 27, 2015, in Washington, DC. The combination of a supermoon and total lunar eclipse last occurred in 1982 and will not happen again until 2033. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
A perigee full moon, or supermoon, is seen during a total lunar eclipse on Sunday, September 27, 2015, in Washington, DC. The combination of a supermoon and total lunar eclipse last occurred in 1982 and will not happen again until 2033. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

In Los Angeles, a large crowd filled the lawn of Griffith Observatory to watch the celestial show while listening to Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" played by 14-year-old pianist Ray Ushikubo.

"You always want to see the eclipse because they're always very different," said astronomer Edwin Krupp, the director of the hilltop landmark.

Unfortunately, not everyone got the view they were hoping for. Parts of the South, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes were socked in by clouds and missed the show.

The supermoon eclipse marked the end of a tetrad, a series of four total lunar eclipses each occurring about six months apart. This series began in April 2014.

The combination of a supermoon and total lunar eclipse will not happen again until 2033. 

Credit: cbsnews.comcnn.comNASA

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