Merrillville Community Planetarium
Bringing the Universe to the Merrillville Schools and Northwest Indiana

Total Lunar Eclipse on September 27, 2015

Weather permitting, observers in the continental United States, including Northwest Indiana, will be able to observe a total lunar eclipse during the evening of Sunday, September 27. This is the second of two lunar eclipses in 2015. The first lunar eclipse was a partial eclipse on April 4, 2015.

The moon will be relatively close to Earth on September 27, resulting in a slightly larger, brighter moon. The moon’s orbit is elliptical, meaning that the moon is sometimes a little closer to Earth and sometimes a little farther away from Earth. When the moon is at closest point to Earth, it appears slightly larger – about 7% wider – than when the moon is at its most distant point. The lunar eclipse of September 27 occurs just one day before the moon is at its closest point to Earth on September 28.

The evening of September 27 starts with the rise of the full moon at 6:31 p.m. followed by sunset at 6:38 p.m. The moon begins to enter the dark umbra shadow of Earth at 8:07 p.m. – this is the beginning of the partial eclipse. For the next hour, the dark shadow of Earth will slide across the face of the moon. When the shadow completely covers the Earth-side of the moon – at about 9:11 p.m. – the total eclipse starts. The total lunar eclipse lasts about 72 minutes, ending at 10:23 p.m. Over the next hour, Earth’s shadow gradually uncovers the moon until the partial eclipse ends at 11:27 p.m.

No special preparations are required to observe the lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse is safe and easy to observe with the unaided eye. If the sky is mostly clear, the eclipse will be easily visible. Even if the sky is partly or mostly cloudy at the beginning of the eclipse, glimpses of the moon may be visible during latter portions of the eclipse.

Viewing of the eclipse can be greatly enhanced by using binoculars. Observers should try to watch the moon at the beginning of the eclipse and then follow the dark shadow of Earth as it moves across the craters and features of the moon. By using a tripod and camera with a zoom lens, it is possible to photograph the eclipse.

As the moon orbits Earth, the moon sometimes passes through the shadow of our planet. When this occurs, the surface of the moon gradually becomes dark. The lunar eclipse may be partial or total depending upon the position of the sun, Earth, and moon.