Harvest moon eclipse lights up Nigerian skies
• Spectacle was visible to naked eye from Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe but not North, South America
• Stunning photos from across globe showed enormous, brighter-than-normal phenomenon
It came as a pleasant surprise. Most Nigerians were not expecting it. The relevant agencies and scientific bodies in the country did not predict the occurrence of this phenomenon that will not occur again until 2024.
Nigerians were startled by the harvest moon, which was out in full force as it coincided with an eclipse on Saturday September 17, 2016, night. It took a phone call to The Guardian on Saturday night for the establishment to witness the spectacle and take photos.
It happened between 7.54 p.m. and 8.04 p.m. The moon was growing bigger, glowing in bright yellowish-brown colour with black clouds gathering around it.
Unfortunately, only few Nigerians took notice. Maybe most Nigerians in the cities were too preoccupied. The spectacle lasted for about 30 minutes from when The Guardian joined stargazers all over the world. “I received the call about some minutes to 8:00 p.m. and by 8.30 p.m. the skies had gone back to near normal.”
Unlike in most other parts of the world where it was reported that the phenomenon occurred on Friday night, The Guardian witnessed it on Saturday night in Nigeria. The harvest moon was engulfed in part of the Earth’s shadow, in an event known as a penumbral eclipse.
The eclipse was expected to begin at 5:54pm BST (12:54 ET), and would last around four hours, reaching optimum visibility at 7:54pm BST (2:54 ET) on Friday night.
Indeed, according to reports, from Nigeria to New York City and Replin, Germany, to Essex in the United Kingdom, the night sky across the globe was illuminated by the stunning moonlight.
According to reports published by DailyMailUK online, “people certain parts of the world were also able to watch the Earth’s shadow crosses paths with the moon during the eclipse while others simply enjoyed the seemingly brighter-than-normal moon.
“The eclipse was visible from Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia but not North and South America. The phenomenon will not occur again until 2024.
“This month’s full moon was called the harvest moon because it is the closest full moon to the autumn equinox, which takes place on September 22 in the Northern Hemisphere.
“Rising about half an hour later each night, the added light from the shining moon is said to have given farmers more time to harvest their crops.”
Stargazer, Andrew Fazekas, noted in National Geographic: “Last year, the harvest moon was also a supermoon- when our natural satellite made its closest approach to Earth—and it was turned a spectacular ruddy hue by a total lunar eclipse.
“This year, Earth’s shadow will again darken the moon but in a more ethereal event known as a penumbral eclipse.”
Earth has two types of shadows – penumbral and umbral.
The umbra is the central cone of darkness that tapers away from Earth, and the penumbra is a much lighter shadow that spreads out from the edges of the umbra.
When Friday’s full moon moved into the Earth’s outer shadow, it caused a penumbral lunar eclipse – one of three types of lunar eclipse.
Penumbral eclipses are the most subtle of the lunar eclipses, but if the skies are clear it should be visible with the naked eye.
But a pair of binoculars or a telescope would make the eclipse much clearer.
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