Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Some clouds, but eclipse should be visible

It won't be ideal viewing conditions, but the weather probably won't ruin our chance to see the lunar eclipse shortly before daybreak Wednesday.

A bigger problem could be the location of the eclipse in the sky.

The eclipse will begin around 5:15 a.m., when the moon begins moving into the earth's shadow. Over the next 100 minutes, the shadow will grow until total eclipse is reached about 6:55 a.m.

Fortunately, since we're in early October, sunrise in Charlotte isn't until 7:24 a.m. So while the sky definitely will be brightening, we will still be able to see the moon at that time. And of course, the early (partial) portion of the eclipse will be visible.

Unfortunately, the moon will be setting in the Carolinas shortly after it reaches full eclipse. By 6:55 a.m., the moon will be about 10 to 15 degrees above the horizon. Translated:  If there's a tree or building between you and the western sky, where the moon is setting, you won't see the total eclipse. You'll need to find a relatively clear view of the western horizon.

The weather could be another issue.

If the eclipse had been this morning, we would've been in trouble. Several weak disturbances are crossing the Carolinas today, spreading showers across the mountains. The systems have been losing their punch as they reach the Piedmont, but during the morning hours, they created a lot of clouds in the western sky.

There might be some clouds in the western sky again Wednesday morning, but the last of the weak disturbances will be moving away by that time. So I think there'll be enough clear sky to get a look at the eclipse.

The next lunar eclipse is next April 4, but it will be visible mostly in the Pacific. The next time we'll get a chance to see one is Sept. 28, 2015.

The next total solar eclipse in the United States is Aug. 21, 2017.