The Wolf Moon, 2020’s First Full Moon, Coincides with a Lunar Eclipse

Some of the world saw a “ring of fire” eclipse of the Sun on December 26, and exactly two weeks after some of it will see a “Wolf Moon Eclipse” as the moon drifts into Earth’s shadow.

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The first full moon; known as the wolf moon, since wolves supposedly howl more during the winter when food is scarce; is going to be a little extra special this year. Wolf moon coincides with a penumbral lunar eclipse, which occurs when the moon enters Earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra. Because the penumbra is a wider, lighter shadow than the umbra, which is in Earth’s direct wake, this isn’t the most striking type of eclipse. During its peak, the moon will simply appear a little less bright. To see the characteristic reddish-orange “blood moon” of a total lunar eclipse, when the moon does pass into the Earth’s umbra, we’ll have to wait until May 26, 2021.

Lunar eclipses are much more common than solar eclipses, but are still a sight to behold. The first penumbral lunar eclipse of 2020 is about to fall on January 10 i.e., later this week. NASA has coined the term ‘Wolf Moon Eclipse’ for this celestial event. In fact, countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe will be able to see the lunar eclipse, and the total duration is set to be 4 hours and 5 minutes. This is the first of the four penumbral lunar eclipses that are set to occur this year.

A penumbral eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the Moon and the Sun. It obscures the Sun’s light for a specific amount of time, causing the Earth’s shadow to fall on the Moon. Unlike other eclipses, the penumbral eclipse is a very subtle celestial event to observe, though it is interesting to see the larger than usual appearance of the Moon, and the shifts in shadow during the 4 hour period. When the eclipse is at its peak, the Moon’s outer disc will fall under the Earth’s shadow, but not completely. At maximum eclipse, 90 percent of the Moon will be partially shaded by the Earth. The Moon will appear dim, and won’t be as bright as on other days. There will be three more penumbral lunar eclipse this year – June 5, July 5, and November 30.

The eclipse will be visible in India, and countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe will be able to see the lunar eclipse as well. Unfortunately, the penumbral lunar eclipse won’t be visible in the US, as it will be daylight in that part of the region.

While looking at solar eclipses, special glasses are usually recommended by experts. But in the case of a lunar eclipse, it is safe to look at it with the naked eye.