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Total lunar eclipse, 'Blood Moon' on tap Sunday night

Lunar eclipse 22 nasa gov.jfif

There’s a treat in the skies this weekend as a total lunar eclipse will be visible to residents in the Florida Panhandle and much of the rest of the United States.

“This at least will be a “school kids’ eclipse, where the whole family will be able to witness it,” said Dr. Wayne Wooten, a retired astronomer who taught at Pensacola State College and the University of West Florida.

The celestial show begins Sunday evening.

“We’ll see the first darkening of the edge of the moon around 8:30 or so," Wooten said. "We’ll see the moon increasingly covered as it rolls into the Earth’s shadow by 10, and the famous ‘blood moon.’ And the longest total lunar eclipse – more than an hour.”

From about 11 p.m. on the moon will be coming out the other side. Although we’re into spring, Wooten says this can happen any time of the year, and it’s the co-called “Cerro” cycle involving the earth, sun, and moon that takes place every 18 years. And this one, he adds will be “very colorful.”

“Eighteen years from now there will be another lunar eclipse — very similar to what we’re seeing [Sunday] — but it will be one-third of the world to the west of us,” Wooten said.

“We have permission to set up at the Pensacola State College Planetarium," he said. "Or join us at the Pensacola Beach Pavilion.”

While this is the lone eclipse for 2022, Wooten says the next couple of years after that will be busy.

Wayne Wooten.jpg
Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Dr. Wayne Wooten, retired astronomer who taught at PSC and UWF

“In the solar category, the Amelarie eclipse in October of next year, which runs through Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, on up the West Coast,” he said. “Six months later the longest total solar eclipse of our lifetimes in the United States [is] on April 8, 2024.”

The latter will give us four minutes of totality from Mexico to south Texas up to the Great Lakes region and into New England. That path will give more than 100 million people a chance to view the marathon eclipse.

“I’m on the American Astronomical Society planning committee,” Wooten said. “We’re making plans for getting safe solar viewers for everyone locally for both eclipses – the same viewers.”

While viewing eclipses is fun, Wooten says there’s an underlying seriousness that comes with learning about them — especially for younger stargazers.

“For Sunday night’s eclipse, the major thing you want to instill on the youngsters is: the Earth is round,” said Wooten. “This is something the Greeks recognized around 300 B.C. So, the idea that Columbus discovered the Earth is round — no, the Greeks knew that well before the time of Christ.”

Northwest Floridians will have to settle for reading about the next lunar eclipse in May of 2023. The penumbral eclipse will be completely visible only over Asia and Australia and seen rising over Africa and much of Europe.