Photo: Composite of lunar eclipse stages over the Iowa State Capitol, taken by Wil Abeling.
Perhaps you’ve seen the headlines in the media – BEAVER BLOOD MOON.
Seriously, what does all that mean? Well, let’s break it down for you.
BEAVER MOON: The full moon each month has a unique name. For example, the October moon is referred to as the “Hunter Moon”. In the month of November, the full moon is called the Beaver Moon. So the Beaver Moon happens once a year – nothing particularly special.
BLOOD MOON: This term refers to the appearance of the full moon during the full eclipse – which is scheduled for 4:16am to 5:41am. Of the two words (Beaver and Blood), Blood is the most accurate, as the moon will turn a dark reddish/orange color during the eclipse. This is caused by the moon falling into the Earth’s shadow and it will only receive a small bit of sunlight that sneaks around the edge of the dark, so its appearance is dramatically darkened.
Here’s the specific timeline for the eclipse on Nov 8th for Iowa:
Initial start of eclipse: 2:02am
Partial Eclipse Begins: 3:09am
Total Eclipse Begins: 4:16am
Maximum Total Eclipse: 4:59am
End of total eclipse: 5:41am
End of partial eclipse: 6:49am
What’s the best place to view the eclipse?
My opinion: at your home, in the front yard or back yard, whichever one has the clearest view of the sky. I say this because if you’re going to just view it with your eyes or a pair of binoculars, then there’s really no need to travel anywhere. The view will be exactly the same all across the state – so there’s no need to travel to a dark sky location. As long as you can see the moon, you’re good.
The only two exceptions are:
- if you want to be at a location where others have telescopes set up and are willing to let you get a closer look, then that would be an exception. Otherwise, this event is best seen from home.
- What’s unusual about this eclipse is that the fully eclipsed moon will be closer to the horizon than most eclipses – so for photographers, this one is really of interest because you have an opportunity to line the eclipse up against objects on the horizon. So this might be the scenario that sends you away from home, in search of interesting objects to line up against the eclipse.
Tips for observing the eclipse with kids
Should I wake my kids up for it?
Great question – but that’s a parent’s choice. Compared to other recent eclipses that happened in the evening hours, the timing on this one is going to make it hard to get your kids up. However, if you’re an early riser and are typically up before 6am, then it would be worth sticking your head outside to check it out.
1) Don’t plan to go out for the whole eclipse.
Just because happens between 2:02am and 7:56am, does not mean you need to see all of it. Most lunar eclipses take hours and kids (and most parents) don’t have that much patience. It’s best to plan to make several quick trips to the window or outside.
2) There’s nothing to see at the start.
Most sources are reporting that the eclipse starts 2:02am- and this is technically true – but there isn’t anything special happening at that time. Your best option is to wait until the eclipse has progressed.
3) If I am going take a look at it a few times, what times do you recommend?
If you’re the adventurous type and willing to get up early for this event, I would recommend two times: 5:30am – which is during the total eclipse phase when the moon should be at its darkest. And then I would recommend checking it out again around 6 am. Just a half hour is enough time to see how quickly the changes occur through the eclipse.
And if you have kids with you, here’s what I would recommend for how to talk with them about the eclipse. The first time you head out, I would ask questions, like “does it seem different tonight?” Tell your kids, “We’ll come back outside in another 30 minutes or so and check on it again”. When you come back out, I would ask questions like… “What’s different? What’s changed since we saw it a little bit ago? What do you think is going on? What do you think will happen next? “
From my experience, trying to explain what’s going on to kids is not as powerful as just asking questions. Let them observe it, and let them comment on it. Some kids will care less. Some will just want to back to bed. But some will stop and wonder – and they will ask “What’s going on?” or “Why did that happen?” At that point in time, then you can help them out by digging into the details of what’s going on.
If it turns out to be cloudy or waking up this early isn’t your thing – and you’d like a glimpse of what a lunar eclipse is like – here’s a timelapse video I made of a previous lunar eclipse over Des Moines, Iowa.