Solar and Lunar Eclipes
We avoid what’s painful and stay in our comfort zones. That’s why we occasionally need a little cosmic kick in the pants to push us off the fence and into action. Eclipses are these agents of change. They fall four to six times a year and turn things upside-down. In our disoriented state, we may act out of character or see turbulence in the world. Eclipses can also help break patterns and shift dynamics. However, most astrologers suggest waiting a week or so before taking drastic action, allowing the eclipse energy to settle first.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes behind the Earth so that the Earth blocks the Sun’s rays from striking the Moon. This can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle. Hence, a lunar eclipse can only occur the night of a full moon. The type and length of an eclipse depend upon the Moon’s location relative to its orbital nodes. The most recent total lunar eclipse occurred on December 10, 2011.
The previous total lunar eclipse occurred on June 15, 2011; The recent eclipse was visible from all of Asia and Australia, seen as rising over Europe and setting over Northwest North America. The last to previous total lunar eclipse occurred on December 21, 2010, at 08:17 UTC.  Unlike a solar eclipse, which can only be viewed from a certain relatively small area of the world, a lunar eclipse may be viewed from anywhere on the night side of the Earth. A lunar eclipse lasts for a few hours, whereas a total solar eclipse lasts for only a few minutes at any given place, due to the smaller size of the moon’s shadow.
Also unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are safe to view without any eye protection or special precautions, as they are no brighter (indeed dimmer) than the full moon itself. Two solar and two lunar eclipses take place in 2012 as follows. 2012 May 20: Annular Solar Eclipse| 2012 Jun 04: Partial Lunar Eclipse| 2012 Nov 13: Total Solar Eclipse| 2012 Nov 28: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse| Annular Solar Eclipse of May 20
The first solar eclipse of 2012 occurs at the Moon’s descending node in central Taurus. An annular eclipse will be visible from a 240 to 300 ilometre-wide track that traverses eastern Asia, the northern Pacific Ocean and the western United States. A partial eclipse is seen within the much broader path of the Moon’s penumbral shadow, that includes much of Asia, the Pacific and the western 2/3 of North America (Figure 1). The annular path begins in southern China at 22:06 UT. Because the Moon passed through apogee one day earlier (May 19 at 16:14 UT), its large distance from Earth produces a wide path of annularity. Traveling eastward, the shadow quickly sweeps along the southern coast of Japan as the central line duration of annularity grows from 4. to 5. 0 minutes. Tokyo lies 10 kilometres north of the central line.
For the over 10 million residents within the metropolitan area, the annular phase will last 5 minutes beginning at 22:32 UT (on May 21 local time). The annular ring is quite thick because the Moon’s apparent diameter is only 94% that of the Sun. Traveling with a velocity of 1. 1 kilometres/second, the antumbral shadow leaves Japan and heads northeast across the Northern Pacific. The instant of greatest eclipse  occurs at 23:52:47 UT when the eclipse magnitude  reaches 0. 9439.
At that instant, the duration of annularity is 5 minutes 46 seconds, the path width is 237 kilometres and the Sun is 61° above the flat horizon formed by the open ocean. The shadow passes just south of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands as the central track slowly curves to the southeast. After a 7000 kilometre-long ocean voyage lasting nearly 2 hours, the antumbra finally reaches land again along the rugged coastlines of southern Oregon and northern California (Figure 2) at 01:23 UT (May 20 local time). Redding, CA lies 30 kilometres south of the central line.
Nevertheless, it still experiences an annular phase lasting 4 1/2 minutes beginning at 01:26 UT. It is already late afternoon along this section of the eclipse path. The Sun’s altitude is 20° during the annular phase and decreasing as the track heads southeast. Central Nevada, southern Utah, and northern Arizona are all within the annular path. By the time the antumbra reaches Albuquerque, NM (01:34 UT), the central duration is still 4 1/2 minutes, but the Sun’s altitude has dropped to 5°. As its leading edge reaches the Texas Panhandle, the shadow is now an elongated ellipse extending all the way to Nevada.
Seconds later, the antumbra begins its rise back into space above western Texas as the track and the annular eclipse end. During the course of its 3. 5-hour trajectory, the antumbra’s track is approximately 13,600 kilometres long and covers 0. 74% of Earth’s surface area. Path coordinates and central line circumstances are presented in Table 1. Partial phases of the eclipse are visible primarily from the USA, Canada, the Pacific and East Asia. Local circumstances for a number of cities are found in Table 2 (Canada, Mexico and Asia) and Table 3 (USA). All times are given in Universal Time.
Subsequent members of Saros 128 were all annular eclipses with increasing durations, the maximum of which was reached on 1832 Feb 01 and lasted 08 minutes 35 seconds. The duration of annularity of each succeeding eclipse is now dropping and will reach 4 minutes with the last annular eclipse of the series on 2120 Jul 25. Saros 128 terminates on 2282 Nov 01 after a string of 9 partial eclipses. Complete details for the 73 eclipses in the series (in the sequence of 24 partial, 4 total, 4 hybrid, 32 annular, and 9 partial) may be found at: Partial Lunar Eclipse of June 04
Observers in western Canada and the USA will have the best views with moonset occurring sometime after mid-eclipse. To catch the entire event, one must be located in the Pacific or eastern Australia. The June 04 partial lunar eclipse belongs to Saros 140, a series of 77 eclipses in the following sequence: 20 penumbral, 8 partial, 28 total, 7 partial, and 14 penumbral lunar eclipses (Espenak and Meeus, 2009). Complete details for the series can be found at: Total Solar Eclipse of November 13 The second solar eclipse of 2012 occurs at the Moon’s ascending node in central Libra.
The path of the Moon’s umbral shadow crosses the South Pacific Ocean where it makes no landfall except for northern Australia. The Moon’s penumbral shadow produces a partial eclipse visible from a much larger region covering the South Pacific (including Australia and New Zealand), southern South America, and part of Antarctica (Figure 4). The central eclipse path begins in Australia’s Garig Ganak Barlu National Park in the Northern Territory about 250 kilometres east of Darwin at 20:35 UT (Figure 5). Traveling southeast, the umbral shadow quickly crosses the Gulf of Carpentaria and reaches the Cape York Peninsula at 20:37 UT.
The first and only populated region in the path lies along the east coast of Queensland. Gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is about 30 kilometres south of the central line. Its residents and visitors will enjoy an early morning total eclipse lasting 2 minutes with the Sun just 14° above the eastern horizon. Observers on the central line can eek out another 5 seconds of totality, but local weather conditions will play a far greater role in choosing a viewing site than a few seconds of totality. After leaving Australia, the umbral shadow glides over the ocean, undisturbed by further landfall for the remainder of its track.
Greatest eclipse occurs in the South Pacific at 22:11:48 UT. At this instant, the axis of the Moon’s shadow passes closest to Earth’s centre. The maximum duration of totality is 4 minutes 2 seconds, the Sun’s altitude is 68°, and the path width is 179 kilometres. Continuing across the vast South Pacific, the umbral shadow’s path ends about 800 kilometres west of Chile at 23:48 UT. Over the course of 3. 1 hours, the Moon’s umbra travels along a path approximately 14,500 kilometres long covering 0. 46% of Earth’s surface area. Path coordinates and central line circumstances are presented in Table 4. All times are given in Universal Time.
The Sun’s altitude and azimuth, the eclipse magnitude and obscuration are all given at the instant of maximum eclipse. This is the 45th eclipse of Saros 133 (Espenak and Meeus, 2006). The series began on 1219 Jul 13 with the first of 13 partial eclipses. The first annular eclipse was non-central and occurred on 1435 Nov 20. Five more annular eclipses followed until a hybrid eclipse on 1544 Jan 24. Subsequent eclipses in the series have been total with a steadily increasing duration of totality until the peak duration of 6 minutes 50 seconds was reached on 1850 Aug 07. The duration of totality has been decreasing since then.
The remaining 20 total eclipses will see totality drop to below 2 minutes. The series ends with a set of 7 partial eclipses the last of which occurs on 2499 Sep 05. Penumbral Lunar Eclipse of November 28 The last lunar eclipse of 2012 is a deep penumbral eclipse with a magnitude of 0. 9155. It should be easily visible to the naked eye as a dusky shading in the northern half of the Moon. The times of the major phases are listed below. Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 12:14:58 UT Greatest Eclipse: 14:33:00 UT Penumbral Eclipse Ends: 16:51:02 UT Note that the beginning and end of a penumbral eclipse are not visible to the eye.
In fact, no shading can be detected until about 2/3 of the Moon’s disk is immersed in the penumbra. This would put the period of eclipse visibility from approximately 14:00 to 15:00 UT. Keep in mind that this is only an estimate. Atmospheric conditions and the observer’s visual acuity are important factors to consider. An interesting exercise is to note when penumbral shading is first and last seen. Figure 6 shows the path of the Moon through the penumbra as well as a map of Earth showing the regions of eclipse visibility. Eastern Canada and the USA will miss the eclipse entirely since it begins after moonset.
Observers in western Canada and the USA will have the best views with moonset occurring sometime after mid-eclipse. To catch the entire event, one must be in Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, or East Asia. The November 28 penumbral lunar eclipse is the 11th member of Saros 145, a series of 71 eclipses in the following sequence: 18 penumbral, 10 partial, 15 total, 20 partial, and 8 penumbral lunar eclipses (Espenak and Meeus, 2009). Complete details for the series can be found at: eclipse. gsfc. nasa. gov/LEsaros/LEsaros145. html Explanatory Information Solar Eclipse Figures Lunar Eclipse Figures Shadow Diameters and Lunar Eclipses