Ever wanted to watch a full moon eclipse and the sun rising at the same time? Now is your chance of witnessing what has been called a selenelion! Get ready to simultaneously view a total eclipse of the moon and sunrise, sighting these magnificent celestial bodies for several more minutes than we would normally see them, a phenomenon made possible by atmospheric refraction.
The impossible made possible
A number of heavenly events have graced the year of 2014. In August, we had our biggest supermoon event, which followed other supermoons earlier during the year, and finally, last month, we had images of the last supermoon of 2014. Tomorrow, 8th of October, we are going to have yet another amazing sight in the sky to marvel at: an incredibly rare total lunar eclipse.
The total eclipse of the moon will be visible in certain parts of the world together with the sight of the rising sun. This phenomenon is called a “selenelion” when both these happenings occur simultaneously. According to celestial geometry, this occurrence should not even be happening; but yet, it is, as a miracle being painted in the sky.
Atmospheric refraction making the sighting of the selenelion possible
During a lunar eclipse, the sun and the moon are at 180 degrees apart in the sky. This alignment is called a syzygy, and witnessing both occurrences in such a circumstance is allegedly impossible. However, the Earth’s atmosphere will indirectly interfere with this impossibility and allow for images of the sun and moon to be both captured as they are ‘raised’ above the horizon by atmospheric refraction. Therefore, as a result, inhabitants of the Earth will witness the sun in the sky for several extra minutes before the usual sunrise time, and the moon for many minutes after it has actually set. Our atmosphere that never fails to constitute a shield all around our planet for us also offers a magnificent spectacle from time to time– how cool is that!
Who will view the selenelion phenomenon?
People from regions east of the Mississippi River will have the opportunity to view the sun and the moon for extra minutes (2 to 9 minutes depending on location): simultaneously witnessing the sun rising in the east while the fully eclipsed moon sets in the west.
People from Newfoundland, eastern Nova Scotia, west and south of the Atlantic Seaboard will all be able to sight the selenelion. People in the US and Canada located near the Eastern Seaboard will also be able to enjoy watching the moon coming from the umbra.
Europe, Africa, Mauritius: maybe next time.