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Total Lunar Eclipse: September 28, 2015

Geographic Region: eastern Pacific Ocean, North America, South America, Europe, Africa, western Asia

The final eclipse of 2015 is another total lunar eclipse, and the last of four consecutive total lunar eclipses spanning two years.  The event is well placed for observers in the Americas as well as Western Europe and Africa.  The eclipse occurs in southern Pisces at the Moon's descending node while the Moon is also at perigee (September 28 at 01:46 UT).  This means that the Moon will appear 12.9% larger than it did during the April 04 eclipse (33.5 vs. 29.7 arc-minutes).

This time, the orbital path of the Moon takes it deeper into the southern half of Earth's umbral shadow.  The total phase lasts 73 minutes - far longer than the brief 4.5-minute duration of the April 04 eclipse.  A map illustrating worldwide visibility of the event is shown above.  The times of the major eclipse phases are listed below.

 

Penumbral Eclipse Begins:   00:11:46 UT
Partial Eclipse Begins:    01:07:12 UT 
Total Eclipse Begins:    02:11:11 UT 
Greatest Eclipse:   02:47:09 UT
Total Eclipse Ends:    03:23:07 UT 
Partial Eclipse Ends:    04:27:06 UT 
Penumbral Eclipse Ends:   05:22:33 UT

 

At the instant of greatest eclipse (02:47:09 UT) the Moon lies near the zenith from a location near Belem, Brazil.  At this time, the umbral magnitude peaks at 1.2765 as the Moon's northern limb passes 3.5 arc-minutes south of the shadow's central axis.  In contrast, the Moon's southern limb lies 9.3 arc-minutes from the southern edge of the umbra and 37.0 arc-minutes from the shadow center.  As a result, the northern half of the Moon will appear much darker than the southern half because it lies deeper in the umbra.  The Moon samples a large range of umbral depths during totality so its appearance will change considerably with time.  The exact brightness distribution in the umbra is difficult to predict, so observers are encouraged to estimate the Danjon value at different times during totality.  It may also be necessary to assign different Danjon values to different portions of the Moon (e.g., north vs. south).

During totality, the autumn constellations are well placed for viewing and the brighter stars can be used for magnitude comparisons.  The center of the Great Square of Pegasus lies 24° to the northwest, its brightest star being Alpheratz (m = +2.02).  Deneb Kaitos (m = +2.04) in Cetus is 20° south of the eclipsed Moon, while Hamal (m = +2.01) is 35° to the northeast, Aldebaran (m = +0.87) is 65° to the east, and Almach (m = +2.17) is 48° to the north.  Although relatively faint, the planet Uranus (m = +5.7) lies 14° northeast of the Moon during totality.

The entire September 28 eclipse is visible from the Atlantic Ocean and regions immediately bordering it.  This includes the eastern half of North America, Western Europe, South America and West Africa.  From western North America, early eclipse phases occur before moonrise.  Similarly, observers in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and East Africa will experience moonset during some phase of the eclipse.  None of the eclipse is visible from eastern Asia, Australia or New Zealand.

The September 28 eclipse is the 26th eclipse of Saros 137.  This series is composed of 78 lunar eclipses in the following sequence: 15 penumbral, 8 partial, 28 total, 7 partial, and 20 penumbral eclipses.  The family began with the penumbral eclipse of 1564 December 17, and ends with another penumbral eclipse on 2953 April 20.

 

Eclipse map and predictions courtesy of Fred Espenak - NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.
For more information on solar and lunar eclipses, see Fred Espenak's Eclipse Home Page:

http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html

 

 

 

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