Lunar eclipse provides celestial treat for MN skywatchers

Published 6:34 am Tuesday, January 22, 2019

By Andrew Krueger

MPR News/90.1

Skywatchers in Minnesota and across much of the nation enjoyed a lunar extravaganza late Sunday.

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The Earth slid directly between the moon and the sun, creating a total lunar eclipse visible across all of North America — as long as clouds didn’t block the show.

Much of Minnesota — including the Twin Cities — enjoyed clear skies for most or all of the eclipse.

Slowly, starting just after 9:30 p.m., the Earth’s shadow started to creep over the bright full moon. The eclipse reached totality at about 10:41 p.m., turning the dimmed moon an orange-red hue for about an hour, until the shadow started to recede.

Photographers and skywatchers armed with tripods, telescopes and telephoto lenses gathered at viewpoints around the state to watch the eclipse, braving frigid conditions. Parts of northern Minnesota were in the 20s below zero on Sunday night.

Dave Falkner, president of the Minnesota Astronomical Society, told MPR News ahead of the eclipse that the reddish color at totality is “caused by the sunlight that separates the colors of the rainbow; the red tends to curve around the Earth and then illuminate the moon.”

The reddish color is why an eclipsed moon is sometimes called a “blood moon.” And a full moon in January is called the “wolf moon.”

Adding to the display: it was the year’s first supermoon, when a full moon appears a little bigger and brighter thanks to its slightly closer position to Earth.

All of that together led some to use the name “super blood wolf moon” to describe Sunday’s eclipse.

It’s the last total lunar eclipse visible on Earth until May 2021.