An incredible astronomy event is set to take place on Friday, March 21 — and it’s taking place during daylight hours.
The eclipse will be visible across the continental United States, but it is expected to be the longest one since at least the 1450s, when modern astronomy was invented. The next one will occur in 2124, at which point it will happen six times longer.
It’s likely not the only astronomical event of the month to take place around the world. There are a bunch happening that night, including a total solar eclipse and new star formation from an orange supernova. (See this fact sheet to be sure you’re covered.)
Viewing won’t be easy, however. Just before it begins at 12:33 p.m. eastern time, moon will actually make the moon itself a part of the Earth’s shadow, causing its slim crescent to disappear.
At 1:37 p.m., the moon will return to a small, partial phase, after which it will rise further into the sky. Though it will still look like the sun, much of the moon will be hidden. Finally, at 2:48 p.m., it will set, but the moon will still appear pretty dark and the sun will have continued to cover it.
During totality — that is, when the moon passes almost completely through the Earth’s shadow — the moon will appear to briefly “turn black,” coming to a close and then parting at an angle. (But don’t worry, in this time, you won’t actually see the Earth’s shadow right in front of the moon, it will only be partially covered and form the black silhouette shown above.)
Fortunately, thanks to modern technology, people around the world can watch the spectacle — just don’t be late — from their computer or smartphone, with the help of the Virtual Telescope Project. From Italy, you can watch live on www.vtp.it; in Spain, it will be streamed at https://www.eclipse2018.org/en/sisterstreams.html; from Mongolia, you can check it out at http://tomangku.info/sunset-eclipse-eclipse-2019/?page=view; and in Russia, it will be available on http://sunset.trendiva.ru/popup-content/digital-projection-of-eclipse-from-mongolia-trendiva.html.
If you can’t get there for the big event, there will also be a number of recorded broadcasts, including Facebook Live from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and an infrared signal from NASA’s James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Chile.
As for what to expect during the astronomical event itself, sky watchers might want to keep in mind that it’s the longest eclipse of the 21st century to date, but we can’t forsee any other eclipses that will provide much of a challenge like this one. And even though some light pollution will obscure much of the view in areas where the eclipse does occur, there will also be plenty of other fabulous celestial sights to check out during the night. (And if you want to see the highlights, use the Infrared Spectroscopic Explorer, just out of launch control.)
[Adelante! and Chronically Blog]