PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Election Day 2022 will have a first-of-its-kind start to the day, and it doesn't have anything to do with politics. There's a total lunar eclipse just hours before the polls open.
"A lunar eclipse happens, and it can only happen in a period of a full moon. What happens at that time is the moon is passing into the shadow of the Earth called the umbra, which is Latin for shadow," explained Tom Wildoner, who runs the Dark Side Observatory in Weatherly.
"What's interesting with eclipses is they always come in twos. Every single time they will come in groups of two, occasionally in threes."
Wildoner explained that we have at least one full moon per month, but we don't have an eclipse each month.
"The moon's orbit around the earth is inclined by five degrees, so we have to have those special times when it lines up in a point on the orbit called the node."
Our Election Day eclipse starts at around 3 a.m. Tuesday.
"Around 3, you'll see it start to darken. It's going to darken from the north part of the moon to the south. It will get into what's called totality at about 5:15."
The moon will reach the darkest part of Earth's shadow shortly before 6 a.m. This is when it will appear the deepest orange-red color.
"The moon's still being lit by the sun. It's just coming around the edge of the Earth and getting diffracted by atmosphere and diffusion in space. It gives it that reddish-orange color."
The moon will set before we can see it come out of totality. If you have a telescope at home, you can see the planet Uranus while the moon is in totality.
"That planet is going to be one degree to the northwest of the moon at the 10 or 11 o'clock position. Something else that's neat if you intend to stay out for this, you're going to see medium bright stars around the edges of the moon that you typically wouldn't be able to see," Wildoner added.
This will be the last total lunar eclipse visible in our area until March 2025. There won't be another total lunar eclipse on Election Day until 2394.
See past Skywatch 16 segments on YouTube: