KINGMAN - A rare dance between the moon, earth, and sun will take place tonight at sunset, and this is one you won't want to miss. You'll have to wait 18 years for the next one.
A total lunar eclipse will coincide with supermoon moonrise this evening, something that hasn't happened since 1982 and won't happen again until 2033. "That's rare because it's something an entire generation may not have seen," said Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
The supermoon term is a bit of a misnomer: it's a coined term used for when the moon's orbit is closest to earth. At moonrise, the light from the moon bends in the atmosphere of the earth, making the moon seem to be larger on the horizon than in the sky above us. It's not a dramatic different when it's above us, but on the horizon the moon's size is noticeably larger.
As for the supermoon and a lunar eclipse occurring simultaneously, Petro said, "It's just planetary dynamics. The orbit of the moon around Earth is inclined to the axis of Earth and the orbital plane of all these things just falls into place every once in a while. While the rhythms line up, you might get three to four eclipses in a row or a supermoon and an eclipse happening."
For us here in Kingman, that plays to our advantage in producing a dramatic moonrise. The moon will rise over the eastern horizon at 6:24 p.m., just as the sun is setting in the west. The total lunar eclipse will be well underway at that point, with the eclipse entering totality at 7:11p.m. The moon will rise mostly in shadow, and will remain that way for the better part of an hour.
Skies are set to be clear on Sunday, giving us a prime view of the celestial show. For those allergic to moonlight or concerned about the apocalyptic harvest moon, NASA will be streaming the entire eclipse on its website.