Hopes dim for outdoor viewing of lunar eclipse, but UNO planetarium will broadcast it live

Hopes dim for outdoor viewing of lunar eclipse, but UNO planetarium will broadcast it live
This Sunday’s event is being called a super blood wolf moon. BRENDAN SULLIVAN

It will be rare, beautiful and probably doggone hard to see.

The weather forecast for Sunday night offers only slim hope to get a glimpse of the total lunar eclipse.

As the only total eclipse visible in North America until May 26, 2021, the event is already rare.

But in addition, the eclipse will take place when the full moon is near the closest point in its orbit to Earth — a time popularly known as a supermoon, according to NASA. This means that the moon is deeper inside the Earth’s shadow, and therefore may appear darker, the agency said.

It will also appear a bit larger than usual. How much bigger? NASA says about 14 percent larger than the smallest full moon, significant in close-up photographs but a difference not easy to discern with the naked eye.

The National Weather Service is predicting mostly cloudy skies for the spectacle, which will unfold after dark in the southeast and southern sky.

“It’s really disappointing,” said John Johnson, astronomy outreach coordinator for the Omaha Astronomical Society. “We had great plans if the weather would have cooperated.”

There’s still quite a buzz about the one coming Sunday.

It’s being called the super blood wolf moon, names that reflect a mix of science and tradition.

Total lunar eclipses have recently been called blood moons, referring to the red-orange color the moon takes on during the eclipse.

Wolf moon is a name traditionally given to the January full moon. According to National Geographic, the name was hatched by Native Americans and medieval Europeans as a reference to howling wolves.

There’s no need for eclipse glasses, by the way, which prevented eye damage during the spectacular 2017 total solar eclipse across Nebraska. In that one, the moon covered the sun, but harmful rays during the partial phases could damage eyes.

The entire eclipse sequence will take about five hours, running from 8:36 p.m. Sunday to 1:48 a.m. Monday.

Partial begins at 9:33 p.m. and ends at 12:50 a.m. on Monday.

Total eclipse will occur between 10:41 p.m. and 11:43 p.m.

As of Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service forecast was saying the sky cover, or amount of opaque clouds, above Omaha at the 11 p.m. maximum eclipse will be 79 percent.

It also appears that the cloudiness will be widespread, so driving somewhere else close may not be a viable option — though it might be good to check as the forecast gets sharper.

Krista Testin, operator of the University of Nebraska at Omaha Mallory Kountze Planetarium, said people hoping to see it can find a cloud-cover chart at cleardarksky.com.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s planetarium will be hosting a viewing party for the eclipse Sunday from 8:30 p.m. until midnight with indoor and outdoor viewing. The planetarium is on the first floor of the Durham Science Center, and visitors are encouraged to park in the lot northwest of the center.

If skies are clear, the planetarium will have instruments for observing the eclipse set up outdoors, including tripods for cellphone pictures, Testin said.

If it’s cloudy, people can come indoors to the planetarium, where live video of the eclipse will be streamed from cameras in other locations where skies are clear, she said.

There will be science activities for children of different ages.

Johnson said he’ll fight the temptation to drive somewhere and chase the eclipse. Instead he’ll take his chances at the planetarium.

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