Total lunar eclipse, 'supermoons,' meteor shower in January 2018
MANILA, Philippines – Skywatchers and stargazers are in for a treat on the first month of 2018, as multiple events in the sky will be visible from the Philippines in January.
PAGASA said in a bulletin that a total lunar eclipse will occur on Wednesday, January 31, with the greatest or most prominent part of the eclipse happening at 9:29 pm.
In a total lunar eclipse, the Earth's shadow will completely cover the Moon. The Moon, however, will turn red because of the refraction of light in the Earth's atmosphere.
The entire lunar eclipse will begin at 6:49 pm and will end at 12:09 am on February 1. It will also be visible across western South America, North America, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, eastern Africa, eastern Europe, the Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean.
Unlike solar eclipses – such as the one that happened in the US in August 2017 – lunar eclipses "are safe to watch and observers need not use any kind of protective filters for the eyes," said PAGASA.
The last total lunar eclipse took place in September 2015, but it was not visible in most of Asia and the Pacific.
'Blue moon', 'supermoon'
The lunar eclipse will also happen on the second full moon of January, also known as a "blue moon."
The first full moon of the month took place on Tuesday, January 2, at 10:24 am.
"Since the lunar cycle is 29 days and most months have 30-31 days, we eventually find a situation where a full moon occurs at the beginning and end of the same month," explained PAGASA.
On January 2 at 5:54 am and on January 30 at 5:54 pm, the Moon will also become a "supermoon" as it will be nearer to Earth and will appear bigger than usual. (READ: 5 tips for shooting the supermoon)
This is due to the eccentric orbit of the Moon around the Earth. The closest approach of the Moon to the Earth is called the perigee.
To be considered a "supermoon", PAGASA said that a new moon or full moon "has to come within about 361,000 kilometers of our planet, as measured from the centers of the moon and the Earth."
A "supermoon" also took place in November 2016, at the Moon's closest approach in 68 years.
Meteor shower, 'bright' planets
Then, from January 1 to 7, the annual Quadrantid meteor shower will be active, with the peak activity from Wednesday to Thursday, January 3 to 4.
At its peak, these "falling stars" can be seen at the rate of at least 40 meteors per hour, said PAGASA.
They will appear to radiate from the constellation of Bootes, added the weather bureau. "The Quadrantid meteor shower hits the Earth’s atmosphere at the rate of about 40 kilometers per second."
The planets of Mars and Jupiter will be "visible" in the sky as bright stars, with the two located above the east southeastern horizon on the early morning of January 1. "They will be visible throughout the month before sunrise," it added.
The website EarthSky added that the two planets will be in conjuction – or will appear close together as seen from Earth – on the night of January 7.
Mercury was also found above the east southeastern horizon on January 1, lying among the background stars of the Ophiuchus constellation. "It will slide down the horizon as days pass by until it will no longer be visible starting on the 3rd week of the month," said PAGASA.
Saturn could also be seen "beginning on the first week until it will be high enough for observations as it will lie 10 degrees above the east southeastern horizon in the middle week of the month." The planet will continue to rise up the sky as days pass by, PAGASA added. – Rappler.com