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Total Lunar Eclipse on September 27!

This article appeared in the September 25, 2015 edition of the Davis Enterprise.


By Vinita Domier

Special to the Enterprise


Don’t miss the total lunar eclipse on the evening of Sunday, September 27, 2015. This spectacular celestial event will happen from 6:07pm to 9:27pm, with the peak of totality occurring at 7:47pm. This will be the fourth and last total lunar eclipse of the very rare 2014-15 tetrad, when four consecutive total lunar eclipses occurring six months apart were viewable from North America. The next total lunar eclipse visible from our area will be January 31, 2018.


Western observers will miss the partial lunar eclipse that precedes totality, as the moon will be below the horizon. 18 minutes after moonrise, the full moon in the eastern sky will be totally eclipsed from 7:11pm to 8:23pm. During the 72 minutes of totality, the moon will appear a dull red orb ascending in the sky even though it will be entirely in the Earth's shadow. The partial lunar eclipse following totality will last for 64 minutes until 9:27pm, when the moon will appear full and bright again.


A lunar eclipse can only occur during a full moon when the moon and the sun are on opposite sides of the Earth. This straight-line spatial configuration results in the Earth blocking some or all of the sunlight from reaching the moon. The moon is partially eclipsed if it is partially in the Earth’s shadow, and totally eclipsed if it is totally in the Earth’s shadow. A lunar eclipse is visible from the entire night half of the Earth, as the Earth’s shadow cone is wide enough to cover the entire moon.


During the initial partial eclipse before totality, the moon appears to transition from full to new phase as the moon gradually enters the Earth’s shadow. At totality, the moon is completely engulfed in the Earth’s shadow. During the final partial eclipse after totality, the moon appears to transition from new to full phase as the moon gradually leaves the Earth’s shadow. During totality the moon is not completely dark, but appears reddened as it is being illuminated by the red component of sunlight scattered by the earth’s atmosphere.


A lunar eclipse does not occur at every full moon because the moon’s monthly orbital plane is inclined by 5 degrees to the Earth’s yearly orbital plane. These orbital planes intersect at two nodal points that are spatially six months apart. If the full moon is at or very near either node, it will appear eclipsed. Otherwise the full moon will appear normal as it is above or below the node. Lunar eclipses are rare celestial events that can potentially occur once every six months, but only happen occasionally when the sun, Earth, and full moon are spatially aligned.


Join the Davis Astronomy Club on Sunday, September 27, 2015 starting at 7:30pm at the Explorit Science Center (3141 5th Street, Davis) for a free public viewing of the eclipse of the moon. We will observe the total and partial phases of the lunar eclipse, and also view the beautiful rings of the planet Saturn.


For more information, please contact Vinita Domier at



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  • Explorit’s Exploration Gallery is open to the public every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m. and every Friday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free. Come check out the new Nano Mini Exhibition!
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Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or “like” us on Facebook at

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