On the morning of Tuesday, November 8th, we can watch the Full Beaver Moon be transformed as it passes through the shadow of the Earth. There is much that I love about lunar eclipses. I love their leisurely pace. This one happens slowly over 160 minutes. I love their predictability. We will see this if the skies are clear enough. I love that we don’t have to travel. Anyone in North America can look up and be awed. I love that we don’t need special filters or equipment. Our eyes are enough, and we can use whatever binoculars we might have. And I love how lunar eclipses take us out of the ordinary. The familiar white Full Moon that dims the stars will darken and redden as the starry skies emerge.
The spectacle begins at 3:09am (CST). Be somewhere with a good view to the west. Watch the upper left of the Moon for the first signs of darkening as it orbits into the shadow of the Earth. Settle in for the next hour as the shadow moves across the lunar landscape. Notice the changes in color and have fun naming them. The partial phase ends at 4:16am when totality begins and lasts for 85 minutes. If life does not allow you to attend the whole eclipse, maybe set an alarm for 4am and watch for half an hour.
There’s plenty of time during the eclipse to take in the rest of the night sky. The familiar W-pattern of Cassiopeia the Queen will be low in the northwest to the right of the Moon. Orion the Hunter will be low in the southwest to the left of the Moon. Above Orion, Mars will be bright and glowing like an ember. Above the Moon will be two nearby star clusters: the looser V-shaped Hyades and the tighter dipper-shaped Pleiades. These can be challenging to see in the glare of the Full Moon but much easier to see when it is eclipsed.
You’ll notice the sky getting lighter in the east after 5am as night ends and twilight begins. Totality ends at 5:41am as the top of the Moon begins to brighten as it leaves Earth’s shadow. Then the partial phase plays out in reverse before ending at 6:49am as the Moon slowly sets in the west. Sunrise is around 6:44am and moonset is around 6:55 in the Driftless Area of WI/MN/IA/IL. For those few minutes, we get to see the Sun and Full Moon at the same time opposite one another at dawn. Take a moment to ponder that the Sun, Earth, Moon are all aligned for a time and notice how your long shadow from the rising Sun points to the setting Moon.
Hope you enjoy being bathed in the light of the eclipsed Moon. It will be 28 months (March 14, 2025) before we can experience another.
John Heasley is an astronomy educator and stargazer who enjoys connecting people with the cosmos. He volunteers with NASA/JPL as a Solar System Ambassador , with the International Dark-Sky Association as an Advocate, and the International Astronomical Union as a Dark Sky Ambassador. For more information about stargazing in southwest WI, like Driftless Stargazing LLC on Facebook and find out whenever there’s something awesome happening in the skies. Driftless Dark Skies appears monthly in the Voice of the River Valley.
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