Catch this month’s lunar eclipse, the longest of the century

You even could make a few sketches, which will help you remember the features you saw. Although most people will photograph the event, keep in mind that images don’t really capture what your eyes see, while sketches do.

All ’round the Moon

The constellations of the Northern Hemisphere’s late fall and winter surround this month’s Full Moon. And because the eclipse occurs in the early morning hours in the U.S., the brightest constellations will ride high in the west and south. The Moon will make its coolest close pairing with the Pleiades (M45), which will lie some 5½° north of our satellite at mid-eclipse. This bright star cluster will appear even brighter as Earth’s umbra progresses across the Moon’s face. Aldebaran (Alpha [α] Tauri) will lie 14° east of the Moon and the magnificent constellation Orion the Hunter will stand 35° to Luna’s southeast.

The sky’s brightest star, magnitude –1.46 Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris), will be 60° from the Moon, standing one-third of the way from the horizon to the zenith. Four more of the sky’s top 25 brightest stars to seek out during the eclipse will be Capella (Alpha Aurigae), Castor and Pollux (Alpha and Beta [β] Geminorum, respectively), and Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris).

A “totally” safe event

Often, when we hear or read the word eclipse, it’s followed by some kind of warning to protect your eyes. That’s an important disclaimer for solar eclipses, but a lunar eclipse is not dangerous in any way. Your eyes are safe because you’re simply watching the Moon pass through Earth’s two-part shadow. You might also get a better view through binoculars or a telescope — no filter required — which are both totally safe to use for this event.
Do note, however, that for most of the U.S., the early hours of Nov. 19 will likely be cold, so bundle up. It also might be a tough sell to throw a viewing party for this eclipse. But if you’re looking for one, lots of astronomy clubs and science centers will be hosting them.

This eclipse showcases easy science that comes from what I like to call sublime celestial geometry. So, head outside for at least a short time to watch our planet line up with its most significant cosmic neighbors. Enjoy the show!

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