Skywatch Line for Wednesday, January 31st, and Thursday, February 1st, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, January 31st, and Thursday, February 1st, written by Louis Suarato.

The second Full Moon in January, known as a Blue Moon, occurs at 8:27 a.m. Wednesday. A Blue Moon occurs about once every 2.7 years. Occasionally, there are four Full Moons during one season. The third Full Moon is also known as a Blue Moon. This month’s second Full Moon occurs about 28 hours after lunar perigee, its closest distance to Earth during this lunar cycle, giving it the moniker of a Super Moon. Get up and out early to see a partial lunar eclipse over our region Wednesday morning. Earth’s faint outer shadow, known as the penumbra, will begin to move along the face of the Moon at 5:51 a.m. EST. At that time the Moon will be 12 degrees over the west-northwestern horizon. At 6:58 a.m., the partial eclipse begins when the umbra, the innermost and darkest part of Earth’s shadow, begins its slow trek across the Moon. When the Moon sets at 7:13 a.m., about a fifth of the Moon will be shadowed.

Earth’s shadow extends approximately 870,000 miles into space. The average distance of the Moon from Earth is 238,900 miles. When the Earth’s shadow isn’t shading the Moon, you can see it in the east during any sunset as a purplish hue. The pink band above the purple is known as the Belt of Venus. Earth’s shadow can also be seen in the west before sunrise.

When the partial eclipse begins, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn will be visible, stretching from high above the southern horizon, to low in the east. At 5:35 p.m., the Moon rises 99.7% illuminated. Mercury and Venus will be too close to the Sun to view during February. Thursday, Leo’s brightest star, Regulus, trails the Moon throughout the night. The two will be within 5 degrees by dusk.

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