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Be Election Day Observer...of Total Lunar Eclipse

The corps of Election Day observers working the polls and early voters on November 8 can start their morning with a moment of grandeur. As Election Day 2022 dawns, a total lunar eclipse will quietly grace the morning sky.

[Added 03 NOV 2022: NASA describes it well, of course, at What You Need to Know About the Lunar Eclipse.

See also Universe Today's Guide to Tuesday’s Total Lunar Eclipse.]

I'd like to set up a telescope and binoculars near a polling site on Election Day so the public can experience this celestial phenomenon. However, in asking one polling site for permission to park there, I was not welcomed because of perceived election anxieties. Frankly, I see eclipse viewing as an opportunity to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, where ordinary citizens, through small acts, can bring civility to public gatherings. If we treat polling sites as unsettled places, they get perceived as unsettled places. Eclipse observing is just watching nature unfold before our eyes.

Eclipse details for South Bend, IN, are at Election Day Opens With Total Lunar Eclipse. I'm anticipating an observing sweet spot from 5 AM to 7 AM, which starts just before the moon is totally eclipsed, extends for the duration of the total eclipse, and ends after totality segues into a partial eclipse.

Be sure you have a clear horizon to the west. As totality begins at 5:17 AM, for observers in the area dubbed Michiana the moon is due west and only 23 degrees above the horizon, equivalent to just over two fists held out at arm's length. When totality ends at 6:41 AM the moon is less than one fist above the horizon, again as seen from Michiana.

Even before 7 AM in the Eastern time zone (which will have just shifted to Standard time a couple days prior), the morning twilight starts to wash out the distinct partial eclipse features. And because the illuminated moon is still partially darkened by the penumbral shadow, the moon tends to fade early into the blue sky.

I have to be honest and temper expectations somewhat. Below are images from a January 2014 morning eclipse and from an October 2014 morning eclipse with similar circumstances. Especially near the horizon and despite being full, the moon is surprisingly hard to find in twilight when it is still partially eclipsed. Moonset is 7:34 AM in South Bend, IN.

Other Highlights of November 8, 2022

At 5 AM, there are three red objects above the reddening moon--the stars Aldebaran and Betelgeuse, and brilliant Mars.

Betelgeuse marks a shoulder of Orion the Hunter, with its famous three Belt Stars. Aldebaran, in the V of stars formed by the Hyades star cluster, is the brightest star in Taurus the Bull. Meanwhile, lingering above, Mars dominates the red denizens of the night sky. Mars is so prominent because it just began retrograde motion October 30 (see video), when it is close to earth and opposite the sun. Hence, it appears large and bright.

An eclipsed full moon is always in the opposite direction of the sun, so as the moon is setting the sun is rising. If you've got a scope or binoculars out near sunrise, look up If there are active sunspots, be prepared for solar observing once the moon has set. Caution: Looking at the sun requires protective eyewear and solar filters.

Around 5:30 PM the sun sets. That evening after the polls close, walk away from the electronics and media, step outside into the night air, and look up. By 9:00 PM he moon, looking nearly full after its recent total eclipse, is flanked by Jupiter up and to the right, and reddish Mars down and to its left.

9 PM, rising in the east

About Those Two Shadows

You can simulate the two prominent shadows involved in a lunar eclipse with the Activity: Lunar Eclipse. To get to the dark, inner umbral shadow, the moon passes through the faint, outer penumbral shadow. At the front end of the November 8 event, the penumbral eclipse begins at 3:01 AM EST. Eventually the full moon will appear slightly muted, but many people cannot discern the subtle difference, so I suggest the readily visible portion of the eclipse begins at 4:08 AM. Then you can start to see the encroaching "bite" taken out of the moon.

If you try the activity in the dark outside, you can use two car headlights to suggest the sun's width. Simply stand in front of one headlight to approximate the shadow resulting from a smaller, near-point light source.

Thanks go to the corps of Election Day workers who get up early to serve that day, as well as to the early-rising voters. I hope you find a rewarding moment from witnessing the total lunar eclipse on November 8, 2022.


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