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Friday, January 10, 2020


Disappointing penumbral Eclipse of the Moon, morning Saturday January 11, 2020

Western horizon as seen from Sydney on  January 11 at 3:06 am AEDST. The eclipse is about to start. Click to embiggenWestern horizon as seen from Adelaide on January 11 at 2:36 am ACDST. The eclipse is about to start. Click to embiggenWestern horizon as seen from Perth on January 11 at 3:10 am AWST. The eclipse is at its maximum extent. Click to embiggen

This year sees three penumbral lunar eclipses, unfortunately, they are all very poor. On the morning Saturday, January 11 the first of these eclipses will occur. Although this is a relatively deep penumbral eclipse, for most of Australia dawn occurs before mid-eclipse, with only WA and NT seeing the Moon at its darkest. Even for WAa nd NT  the subtle darkening of the Moon as it passes through Earth's shadow may be hard to distinguish.

Unfortunately, the January 11 eclipse occurs in the early morning. Even though it is on a Saturday you may wish to stay in bed for this one (WA and NT excluded). Bushfire smoke is an added disincentive for those of us in SA, VIC and NSW.

You don't need special filters or fancy equipment to watch the lunar eclipse, you just need your eyes and somewhere comfortable to sit and watch. Watching the faint outer shadow of earth creep across the Moons face is quite challenging, as the darkening is subtle, but those in WA and NT may find it rewarding (I have with past penumbral eclipses). The Moon is very obvious to the west.

A guide I wrote for the October 2014 lunar eclipse to taking photos of the eclipse is here.

On the East coast, the eclipse starts when the sky is quite dark at 4:06 am AEDST and mid-eclipse begins after Moon set.

In the central states, the eclipse starts before astronomical twilight at 2:36 am ACST (3:36 ACDST)  and mid-eclipse begins during twilight in SA and before twilight in NT (NT has a better view than SA due to eclipse geometry, see the map link below).

In WA, the eclipse starts with the Moon quite high, well before astronomical twilight and most of the eclipse is seen. The eclipse starts at 1:06 am AWST and mid-eclipse begins at 3:30 am AWST.

Moon as seen from WA January 11 when at mid-eclipse, note the subtle darkening seen on the penumbrally eclipsed Moon compared to February's full Moon. Comparison Moon as seen from WA February 11 at the same time.

See here for a map and contact timings in Universal Time for sites outside Australia.

City Astronomical twilight Nautical twilight Civil Twilight Moonset Eclipse Start Maximum Eclipse Eclipse End
South Australia (ACDST) 4:29 am 5:08  am 5:44 am 6:14 am 3:36 am 5:40 am 7:44 am Max eclipse at civil twilight
Northern Territory (ACST) 5:12 am 5:39 am 6:06 am 6:36 am 2:36 am 4:40 am 6:44 am Max eclipse before twilight
Eastern States (AEDST) 4:13 am 4:51 am 5:26 am 5:56 am 4:06 am 6:10 am after Moonset Max eclipse after Moon set
Western Australia (AWST) 3:43  am 4:19 am 4:53 am 5:27 am 1:06 am 3:06 am 5:14 am eclipse ends close to sunrise and moon set

Weather: Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.

Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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