Rare supermoon-lunar eclipse Sunday night - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Rare supermoon-lunar eclipse Sunday night

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

If you look up in the sky this Sunday night, September 27, you might see a bird or a plane--or a rare supermoon-lunar eclipse!

Supermoons aren't uncommon. About every 14th full moon is a supermoon. They occur when a full moon passes close to the earth during it's orbit, which is not perfectly circular.  

Jack Pitkin, operations manager for UT-Chattanooga's Clarence T. Jones Observatory, explains.

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"It's as close to the earth as it's likely to get, barring a major disaster, and it looks bigger," says Pitkin. It'll appear nearly 15% larger and, hence, will be brighter than normal.
  
Total lunar eclipses, however, are a little harder to come by. They happen less than 10 times per century and result from the entire moon passing behind the earth, hiding it from direct sunlight.

"What we have coming up is the entire moon's moving into the thickest part of the earth's shadow," explains Pitkin. "So that's a total lunar eclipse."

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Indirect sunlight bending through the atmosphere and around the earth gives the moon a sort-of-spooky reddish tint during the eclipse, resulting in the nickname "blood moon".

So, the total eclipse and the supermoon happening at the same time is a rare treat. It's only happened five times since 1900, the last one in 1982. We have to hope for some breaks in the clouds.  

"We call them sucker holes. The clouds open up and it looks like you're going to see something. You point a telescope at it and the clouds come back together...SUCKER," Pitkin says jokingly.

All kidding aside, he encourages everyone to take a look. You don't need any fancy equipment.

"A good, comfortable chair and a good view of the sky and good pair of binoculars are all you really need," adds Pitkin.

The partial eclipse begins around 9 p.m. EDT Sunday, then the total eclipse begins about an hour later and ends near 11:30 p.m. The partial eclipse ends around 12:30 a.m. Monday. If you miss this rare supermoon-total lunar eclipse combination, you'll have to wait until 2033 for the next one.

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