Astronomy 2021: The biggest events including a super moon lunar eclipse – The Know

Posted: January 17, 2021 at 9:44 am

This combination photo shows the different stages of a total super moon lunar eclipse as viewed from Los Angeles on Jan. 20, 2019. On the morning of May 26, Coloradans will get to see a similar eclipse as the moon is setting if the weather cooperates. (Ringo H.W. Chiu, Associated Press file)

Lets hope the sky is crystal clear in Colorado just before dawn on the morning of May 26.

If it is, Front Range residents will be treated to a very special lunar eclipse appearing to hang just above the mountains as part of a confluence of events that figures to be the highlight of the celestial calendar for 2021.

First of all, the moon will be full, and it will be a super moon. That means the moon will be closer to the earth just over 222,000 miles away than for any other full moon this year. And remember, the moon always looks bigger when it is rising and setting than it does when its overhead. (Scientists tell us that is just an optical illusion, but it sure is a convincing one.)

Thats already a cool aspect of the timing for this eclipse. But heres where it gets really exciting: The moon will be low in the western sky when the eclipse begins at 5:11 a.m., while the sky is turning twilight blue with the approach of sunrise. The eclipse will reach its maximum at 5:18, the sun will rise at 5:36 and the moon will set at 5:43.

Were already thinking about cool places to watch the show. The Genesee overlook on Interstate 70, where the moon would be seen hanging over the Continental Divide, could be an amazing vantage point.

What I think will be really cool is that it will be setting in the west over the Rocky Mountains for folks in the Front Range, and its going to be just coming out of totality (of eclipse) as it sets, said John Keller, the director of the Fiske Planetarium on the University of Colorados Boulder campus. For that 45 minutes or so when it is in full totality, it will be a rusty reddish color. You will be seeing the red refracted light from our atmosphere making the otherwise dark moon glow.

Indeed, Keller says one of the things that makes this eclipse special is that theres more to the show than the alignment of the sun, the Earth and the moon. He thinks we should give extra props to the influence of Earths atmosphere.

If the Earth didnt have an atmosphere, we would still have eclipses, but the eclipse in May would be very different, Keller said. One, the moon wouldnt be lit up because there wouldnt be any bending of the red light (through Earths atmosphere) to give you the reddening of the moon, And two, there wouldnt be any light blue twilight as the sun is rising, because our atmosphere is doing both. Its scattering the blue light and its bending the red light. So this combination of the reddish setting moon in a bluish predawn sky is really as much about the alignment of the three objects as it is about our atmosphere playing a huge light show for us.

Another lunar eclipse will be visible in Denver on Nov. 19, but that one is only partial. And while the moon will be full for that one, too, it will be farther away (251,000 miles, 29,000 more than in May). Plus, it will take place in the wee hours after midnight.

With that as an appetizer, heres a list of other celestial events to put on your calendar for 2021:

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Astronomy 2021: The biggest events including a super moon lunar eclipse - The Know

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