Skywatchers rejoice! We're in for a busy month.
An eclipse is usually a notable moment of any year. Our superstitious relatives call us with warnings, many gather outdoors to watch the phenomenon, and some pay heed to the "energetic shifts" that occur around these celestial events. Well, you can expect a lot of that this month, as we are due for two eclipses (one partial lunar, one total solar), as well as an extra-bright Jupiter! Here's everything you need to know:
March 8th: Jupiter In Opposition
On Tuesday, March 8th, Jupiter will be "in opposition," which means that the Earth will be located directly between Jupiter and the sun. At this time, Jupiter will be at its closest distance from Earth (about 413 million miles away). According to EarthSky “Jupiter comes to opposition about every 13 months. In other words, that’s how long Earth takes to travel once around the sun relative to Jupiter.”
If you plan on gazing up at jupiter on the night of the 8th, whip out your telescope (if you're hardcore) and watch for its ascension in the east at dusk.
March 8-9: Total Solar Eclipse
Depending on your location, the total solar eclipse will take place between Tuesday the 8th and Wednesday the 9th. Indonesia and other parts of the Pacific will enjoy a full solar eclipse on the 9th shortly after 6pm, while Malaysia, Southeast Asia, and Australia will see a partial solar eclipse. A partial eclipse will be visible as far East as Hawaii on the 8th, before the shadow finally slides off the edge of our horizon. For those of us not located anywhere near the eclipse path, Exploratorium will be live streaming it on March 8th, starting at 8 PM.
In case your wondering "what the heck is a total solar eclipse?", it is the phenomenon that occurs when the moon comes directly between the sun and the Earth, temporarily blocking the sun in our sky as the moon's shadow (or umbra) is cast on Earth's surface. NASA's Sarah Jaeggli describes what it's like to witness a total solar eclipse:
“You notice something off about the sunlight as you reach totality. Your surroundings take on a twilight cast, even though it’s daytime and the sky is still blue. The moon blocks the light of the sun’s surface very, very precisely. You can see all the way down to the roots of the corona, where the atmosphere meets the sun’s surface.”
*If you are planning to watch the eclipse live and in person, make sure to wear protective eyewear and never stare directly at the sun!*
March 23rd: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth's orbit brings us directly between the sun and the moon. This month, on Wednesday the 23rd, we will have a penumbral lunar eclipse, which is the subtlest type of lunar eclipse.
Beginning at around 5:40 AM EST (2:40 AM PST), the penumbral eclipse will be visible in North America, most of South America, much of Asia, Australia, as well as in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. As this is the slightest category of lunar eclipse, it will not be a very dramatic viewing. The Earth’s shadow will obscure the moon’s disc, giving the moon a slightly darker appearance.
Please feel free to share you eclipse experiences with us in the comment section below. We'd love to hear from you!