Just a few days after the Quadrantids meteor shower last weekend, deckchair astronomers will have another impressive sight to soon enjoy – a "full wolf Moon eclipse".
According to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, the penumbral lunar eclipse will peak in Europe, Asia, and much of Africa at approximately 7:09pm UTC, although it should hang around for approximately four hours or so.
Australia might also be able to catch a glimpse around moonset. Unfortunately, the eclipse will not be viewable across most of the Americas since it will be daytime. If it’s not visible from your location, but you still fancy checking it out, you can view a livestream of the event (video below) by The Virtual Telescope Project in Rome, Italy starting at 5pm UTC.
The first full Moon of the year is also referred to as a “Wolf Moon.” According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the name comes from a Native American tradition (where the name refers to the Moon's entire phase, or month) that wolves were heard to howl loudly at the first full Moon of the year due to hunger from the harsh winter.
A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are imperfectly aligned. More specifically, it’s seen when the Moon passes through part of Earth's penumbra (Latin for half-shadow), obscuring some of the Sun’s light. The result is not dramatic, but you can expect to see a slightly dimmer faint-looking Moon in the sky.
Penumbral lunar eclipses aren't especially rare. January’s penumbral eclipse will be the first of four to occur in 2020, with the others gracing the sky on June 5, July 5, and November 30.
If you lucky enough to live in certain parts of South America though, you might have the chance of seeing a total solar eclipse this year. On December 14, a total solar eclipse will grace the South Pacific, Chile, Argentina, and the South Atlantic with a maximum duration of 2 minutes and 10 seconds, according to NASA.
This form of eclipse occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and Earth and casts the darkest part of its shadow (the umbra) on Earth, causing most of Sun’s light to become blocked out by the Moon.
2020 will also see 13 instead of the usual 12 full Moons, with two occurring in October, so lots to look forward to.