Unless you're living under a rock, you know there is a total lunar eclipse happening tonight. As Chicagoans, we don't get as many chances to enjoy the cosmic wonders in the night sky because of light pollution. But, the Moon shines bright enough over the city that everyone can see it, and you'll be able to observe the eclipse of the Moon with minimal effort- go outside and look up.
The best part? Tonight's total lunar eclipse is happening early in the evening, making it a great opportunity for Chicagoans of all ages to witness and observe this rare event.
Here's what you need to know:
What is a total lunar eclipse?
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon align. As the Moon passes into the shadow of Earth, it begins to darken while moving through areas with less and less sunlight.
Once the Moon is in the Earth's umbra, the darkest area created by Earth's shadow, the Moon will appear red in color. This change is caused by dust in our atmosphere.
Viewing Conditions in Chicago
The total lunar eclipse will be visible in Chicago from start to finish, beginning at 9:33 p.m. CST on Sunday, January 20th and ending 12:51 a.m. Monday, January 21st. Totality, when the Moon will appear a dull red, begins at 10:41 p.m. and lasts about an hour, until 11:41 p.m.
Current weather tonight in Chicago calls for a 50% chance of snow showers, partly cloudy, and it'll be cold, so your best bet is to view indoors through a window or run in and out to observe the different phases of the lunar eclipse as any cloud cover moves through.
Eclipse Events Around Chicago
The Dearborn Observatory at Northwestern University in Evanston is hosting a lunar eclipse viewing event. Astronomers will be on hand to answer questions, explain the phases of the eclipse, and to help with observing tips. This event is scheduled to occur regardless of the weather and viewing conditions. Keep an eye on the Observatory event page for updates.
The Adler Planetarium is hosting the lunar eclipse observing event, Lunapalooza, which involves a free outdoor observing event and a paid indoor experience. The outdoor event offers observing in a semi-heated area. Indoors you can watch a live feed of the eclipse, chat with Adler astronomers, watch the Planetarium's newest show - Imagine the Moon- and explore the center. Event details and passes for Lunapalooza can be found on the Adler's event page or Facebook event page.
Cernan Earth and Space Center at Triton College is hosting a free public observing event from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The planetarium will be open, video will be streaming indoors, and there will be telescopes set up outside for Moon observations as well. Keep an eye on their Facebook page and website for updates.
How to Watch the Eclipse Online
Generally, NASA provides great live coverage of astronomical events like tonight's total lunar eclipse, but due to the government shutdown there is no special coverage to announce. However, I enjoy the coverage provided by Griffith Observatory in California when I can't watch an astronomy event in person. Griffith Observatory TV will be livestreaming the entire eclipse event online HERE.
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