Oregon and Its Coast Hoping for Glimpses of Tonight's Total Lunar Eclipse
(Portland, Oregon) – It's maybe a perfect time to mix the Oregon coast and astronomy in the wee hours of this morning, as a total eclipse of the moon is coming, seen in the Pacific northwest around 5 a.m. Saturday morning. (Above: a lunar eclipse seen from Cannon Beach in 2009).
Whether or not it's going to be visible the entire time in spots like Portland, Corvallis, Newport, Cannon Beach, Astoria, Yachats, Seaside, or Pacific City is a bit – if you'll excuse the pun – unclear. But it looks like at least part of the time you'll be able to see it from your favorite beach or from home, if you just stay up late enough.
Jim Todd, head of OMSI's planetarium in Portland, said the moon will be in the constellation of Taurus and near its northernmost point in its orbit.
In the northwest, the show starts at 3:33 a.m., when the shadow of the Earth starts hitting the moon. It begins taking a small bite out of the moon around 4:45 a.m.. That shadowy circle of the Earth is called the umbra.
Lincoln City at night
“The partial eclipse ends and totality begins at 6:06 a.m. PST and the point of the greatest eclipse occurs at 6:31 a.m. PST,” Todd said. “The eclipse’s total phase will lasts for 51 minutes. The moon will be only 6.5 degrees above the north western horizon at the instant of the greatest eclipse.”
Todd said that there are some surprises awaiting viewers.
“What makes it so much fun is that no one can predict what color the moon will turn during totality,” Todd said. “Will it be bright orange, or blood red? Only the shadow knows.”
The total eclipse will end at 6:57 a.m. PST as the moon exits the umbra. Then the moon will set at 7:45 a.m. PST.
In terms of weather and viewing conditions, Portland and inland Oregon seem to have a leg up on the coast. Forecasts call for mostly clear in both places, then changing to somewhat cloudy, while some amount of fog will roll into the Oregon coast. This may be happening right as things get going with the eclipse. It appears from various Oregon weather reports that inland Oregon will be clearer than the coast. However, since conditions change more rapidly on the beaches than inland, if viewing gets cut off it could be only intermittently blocked.
Todd said the Earth always has a shadow, created by the sun, and these instances of everything lining up for a total eclipse are rare.
“This would happen every full moon if the Moon orbited around the Earth in the same plane as the Earth orbits around the Sun,” Todd said. “The Moon's orbit, however, is tilted about 5 degrees above the Earth-Sun plane. This tilt itself, however, rotates, allowing eclipses to happen when the tilt of this plane lines up with the Earth-Sun plane, blocking sunlight.”
Also of note, Todd said that if you were standing on the moon during an eclipse like tonight– and future visitors there will see this – the Earth would appear dark but surrounded by a glowing red ring.
Below: star viewing above Manzanita
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