Heavenly Observations Coming to Tennessee This Week - Look Out and Up

John M. Dabbs

Moon gets eaten?

On November 19, the Moon will be in the shadow of the Earth, creating an almost total lunar eclipse. At the moment of greatest eclipse, at around 9:03 a.m. Universal Time (4:03 A.M. Eastern Time), 99% of the Moon will be in the Earth's shadow. The eclipse will be visible across North America, and parts of South America, according to NASA.

The Moon will start to disappear as it enters the Earth's umbra around 7:20 a.m. UTC (2:20 Eastern Standard Time, 3:20 Central Time). The small part of the Moon lit by the sun will be small enough for your eyes to adapt to darkness.

3 1/2 hours

According to NASA, the eclipse will last 3 hours and 28 minutes, and won't require special glasses as with solar eclipses. The agency says this will be the longest partial lunar eclipse in nearly 600 years, during the Thursday night-Friday morning hours this week, and be visible across the country - if the weather cooperates.

Lunar observers in the eastern US will see the beginnings a little after 2 a.m. Friday morning, with maximum eclipse around 4 a.m. Observers on the west coast will see it begin just after 11 p.m. Thursday, with the eclipse at maximum on the west coast by 1 a.m. Friday.

NASA says, while the partial lunar eclipse is not as spectacular as a total eclipse, totally covering the moon, they are more frequent. This eclipse will be a near-total eclipse, with just 3% of illuminated moon visible.

The full moon in November is known as the Beaver Moon, as the beavers are preparing for winter during the month. This month's eclipse will be known as the Beaver Moon Eclipse, according to Space.com. The Beaver Moon Eclipse will be the last eclipse of 2021, with two total lunar eclipses coming to the U.S. in May and November of 2022 according to NASA.

Leonid Meteor Shower

The peak of the Leonid meteor shower will be visible in this week as well, with the best viewing (weather permitting) on Wednesday and Thursday according to NASA. The Leonids appear to be coming from the constellation Leo in the east, and visible across most of the sky.

The Leonids (named after the constellation Leo), are some of the most spectacular meteor showers. In 1833, the Leonid meteor storm produced meteors at a rate of 100,000 per hour - according the EarthSky. The event was known as "the night the stars fell," and was one of the first recorded meteor storms in modern times.

meteors typically appear at 10-15 per hour in ideal conditions during the meteor shower. The waxing moon this year will make it more difficult to see the smaller meteors. Visibility will be best in clear skies after the moon sets Thursday.

Shooting stars

Meteors, also known as shooting stars, are leftover comet dust. These small bits of dust and debris crumbling off the Tempel-Tuttle comet as it makes its way near Earth's orbit. The fragments burn up when they hit our atmosphere, creating the light show.

NASA relates the Leonids as being some of the fastest meteors out there, at 44 miles per second. NASA says for best viewing, you should find an area without light pollution (an area away from street lights or lights of the cities), prep yourself for comfort so you pay attention - with a lawn chair, blanket, or sleeping bag, and lay flat on your back looking up (feet toward the east if possible).

Patience is key, as the light show will last until dawn. People in the southeastern US will have a better chance of viewing than those in the central US, due to weather. Hopefully that forecast will hold - but I think we are expecting showers tomorrow night in Tennessee, but check your local forecast.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN
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