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Unusual Eclipse Expected Over State College, But Can You See it?

by on October 07, 2014 4:50 PM

Local sky watchers may be in for a treat Wednesday morning as long as the weather doesn’t get in the way. 

An event known as a "selenelion" will occur -- that's the moment when a total lunar eclipse and the sunrise take place at the same time.

However, while anyone living on the East Coast should be able to see this rare event, the skies in State College may not be clear enough to see anything. According to AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Anderson, heavy clouds will most likely prevent viewers from catching the eclipse or the sunrise.

“Unfortunately, we’re calling for a lot of clouds so you probably won’t see the eclipse,” Anderson says. “There’s probably a 10 to 15 percent chance that the clouds will break later on in the morning.”

The eclipse is expected to begin a 4 a.m., and should become total at 6:30 a.m., for anyone still determined to catch it.

What makes the selenelion different from a regular eclipse? The fact that technically, it shouldn’t even be possible.

A lunar eclipse, the moment in which the moon passes behind the Earth into its shadow, only occurs when the sun and the moon are 180 degrees apart.

This separation should make it impossible to see the earth and the moon at the same time. However, the Earth’s atmosphere allows the Sun to be seen a few minutes before it has risen and the moon a few minutes after it has set. 

Weather permitting, the two should only be viewable at the same time for between two and nine minutes, but don’t feel bad if you miss it.

According to Chris Palma, a senior lecturer in Penn State’s Astronomy department, the actual look of the eclipse shouldn’t be much different than usual.

“I expect if anything it’s going to look a little redder,” Palma says. “What’s going on [with the selenelion] is based off location and is pretty rare. But there is nothing that special [about the eclipse] … it’s kind of being blown out of proportion.” 

Lunar eclipses occur on average twice a year, with Wednesday’s being the second and final of 2014. The first occurred on April 15.

So if the clouds prevent you from seeing the one on Wednesday you'll get another chance on April 4, 2015.

“Lunar eclipses are not that uncommon,” Anderson says. “In the 21st century, there will be 230 of them.” 

Matt Allibone is a intern. He's a Penn State senior, studying print journalism. Matt is a native of Delran, N.J.
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