A near-total lunar eclipse is coming in the wee hours of next Friday, one that astronomers say will be the longest in duration in 581 years.
At its maximum, which will occur in Denver at 2:02 a.m., only 3% of the moon will be illuminated according to timeanddate.com, a website that tracks movements of the sun and the moon. The moon will begin to pass into earth’s penumbra (half shadow) at 11:02 p.m. Thursday and the partial eclipse will begin at 12:18 a.m. on Friday. The partial eclipse will end at 3:47 a.m., and the penumbral eclipse will end at 5:03 a.m.
The moon will be full and will appear in the southern and western sky across those hours.
The reason the event will last so long — just over six hours — is because the moon is near apogee, which is its farthest point from earth. It’s the opposite of perigee (closest to earth), which is what gives us so-called “super moons.”
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During this year’s super moon in May, for example, the moon was 222,000 miles away. That event coincided with a total lunar eclipse over the western horizon shortly before sunrise on May 26. During this eclipse the moon will be more than 252,000 miles away.
“The farther away the moon is, the slower it travels along its orbit, which means it takes longer to pass through earth’s shadow,” according to a post on timeanddate.com. The next one this long will occur in the year 2669.
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