FAIRFIELD COUNTY — Sunday night, just a little past 9, make a point to wander outside and look up: If there isn’t any cloudcover, the moon will look really, really, REALLY big — and red. Oh, and really dark when it transforms under a total lunar eclipse.
During this total lunar eclipse, the moon will appear about 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than we are used to seeing it.
Why? It will be a Super Moon, one of those rare occurrences when the mostly elliptical orbit brings it closest to Earth’s surface — about 220,000 miles away instead of its average 240,000 miles — and it won’t happen again for another 18 years.
The last supermoon eclipse was in 1982, and it won’t happen again until 2033.
This supermoon, already special because it will be part of a total lunar eclipse, has another characteristic that helps it rank right up there in the “I need to see this” category: it will also be a Harvest moon — so named for its proximity to the beginning of the autumnal equinox — and a blood moon, thanks to the whole lunar eclipse aspect of it.
As the Earth slides between the sun and moon, a red tint will engulf the moon’s surface, giving it a red glow — lending itself to the blood moon moniker.
The peak eclipse will be at 10:47 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27. The moon will begin going into the lunar eclipse just after 8 p.m. and will pass through the Earth’s shadow around 9:07 p.m. and will stay completely shaded for about an hour starting around 10 p.m. It will be a rare treat since the last one lasted only about five minutes.
The South Carolina State Museum is planning a special after-hours viewing of the unique astronomical event. Members of the Midlands Astronomy Club will have telescopes set up outside the museum to view the eclipse from 8 p.m. to midnight.
The museum will stream a live view of the eclipse from the Boeing Observatory’s historic Alvan Clark telescope.
Admission is $5 for the general public and is free museum members. Eclipse viewing is dependent on clear skies. Museum galleries will be open to explore.
Patricia M. Edwards is the regional editor for Civitas Media’s properties in South Carolina, which includes The Herald Independent. She is also the General Manager for The Herald Independent.