by Steve Petzold
One of the greatest natural wonders we can experience on planet Earth is observing a lunar or solar eclipse.
During the evening hours of January 20, the shadow of the Earth will cast itself across the surface of our Moon, producing a lunar eclipse. This event can be observed from Santa Clarita and the entire Western Hemisphere. Monday, January 21 is Martin Luther King Day, and schools will not be open, which means it will be an ideal date for families with children.
A lunar eclipse does not require any special glasses for eye protection. The eclipse can be observed with your naked eye. However, a pair of binoculars or a simple telescope will help to enhance your experience.
In the days prior to the eclipse, you may find it beneficial to step out and watch the waxing Moon at the same time of day, around 8 p.m. You will notice its movement toward the east as the Moon orbits the Earth.
From the west coast of North America (Pacific Standard Time) here is the timing you should note. For individuals with a casual interest, the critical time for observation will be from 7:30 until 10:00 p.m.
7:10 p.m. a light shadow (penumbra) will begin to appear
7:34 p.m. partial eclipse begins
8:41 p.m. total eclipse begins
9:12 p.m. the middle of totality
9:44 p.m. total eclipse ends
10:51 p.m. partial eclipse ends
11:15 p.m. penumbra last visible
From Los Angeles, the Moon will be approximately half way up in the sky (49 degrees) between the horizon and the zenith, making observation easy on your neck, and above the trees and hills of the Santa Clarita Valley. This is ideal for personal comfort.
The eclipse can be viewed from the comfort of your backyard. It is not necessary to travel out of the city to a location with a darker sky.
The local astronomy club, The Local Group (www.lgscv.org) is scheduled to be at Central Park beginning at 6 p.m. Club members are glad to allow guests to share the experience with their telescopes and binoculars. Using your eyes and not your hands is the common courtesy. I suggest that you dress for comfort (hat, jacket, shoes) and bring a camping chair.
This will be an incredible opportunity for adults and children. Let us hope for a clear sky in Santa Clarita.
My submission to the Santa Clarita Gazette was prepared with reference to an article by Joe Rao published in the January 2019 issue of Sky and Telescope Magazine.