Tonight marks the second of 2013's lunar eclipses, but unfortunately for astronomy enthusiasts, it's not going to be all that impressive — easily overshadowed by other astronomical events this weekend, which I'll talk about below...
Normally I'd be pleased that the eclipse will be visible squarely over North America (except the far north and northwestern tip — sorry Whitehorse), but in this case I'm not sure my telescope and I will venture out. Tonight's eclipse is the penumbral kind — when the moon only enters the outer-most portion of Earth's shadow. In this region, some of the Sun's rays still peek through and the shadow isn't particularly dark. In most cases, the best you get with a penumbral eclipse is a bit of a dirty or dusty smudge over the otherwise off-white moon.
Also, sadly, it isn't even going to cover the whole moon; only the bottom portion.
If you want to keep track of it without standing around in the dark, the Slooh Space Camera has you covered. They'll be hosting they're usual life webcast, starting around 11:30 p.m. Eastern time tonight.
So, dark things in the night sky are letting us down, but there's still some bright things worth seeing this weekend if you have your eyes on the sky.
One of the highlights of May stargazing opportunities occurs on May 25th and 26th, when Jupiter, Venus and Mercury group in the sky. According to Ontario Stargazing, if you look to the west around sunset — about 9 pm Eastern time — near to the horizon, you'll be able to see two of the inner planets hanging out with the biggest our solar system has to offer.
Since Venus, Mercury and Jupiter are among the brightest objects in the May night sky, the trio will be visible to the naked eye once the sun's set and for about 60 minutes after. Binoculars will make the show even better.
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If you're determined to catch a lunar eclipse worth watching, you have better prospects for 2014 and 2015, when four separate total eclipses will be visible over North America. Let's start hoping for clear skies now!
(Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
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