Starting in the wee hours of Friday, November 19, the upcoming Beaver Moon eclipse will be the longest partial lunar eclipse in six centuries, clocking in at nearly 3 ½ hours. Visible throughout North American, this celestial occurrence also is a reminder that stargazing nights are among many events available at State Parks, some of which have relationships with local astronomy clubs.
But to start, a naturalist question: Why is this upcoming full moon that will undergo this eclipse called the Beaver Moon? Well, according to state DEC naturalist Tom Lake, this description originates with the Indigenous peoples of the Northeast, who in November observed that beaver would stock up provisions to get through the coming winter when ponds, lakes, and other waterways freeze over. Beaver instinctively collect forage, including branches, limbs, even small trees, dragging it into their ponds, and securing it on the bottom for later retrieval as needed during the cold and ice of mid-winter.
Now, what about this lunar eclipse? What will happen, when will it happen and how best to observe it? According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, during the peak of the eclipse, the earth’s shadow will cover 97 percent of the moon’s surface, likely casting the moon in a dark, rusty reddish color.
The partial eclipse phase will last 3 hours, 28 minutes and 24 seconds, making it the longest partial eclipse in nearly 600 years! But to see this cosmic dance of earth, moon and sun unfold, two things are needed: Clear nighttime skies and a willingness to be awake when most people normally are asleep.
When the eclipse starts at 1:02 a.m. on Nov. 19, as the earth begins to pass between the sun and the moon, the changes initially will be subtle and difficult to see. That is because the earth actually casts two types of shadows _ a lighter, broader shadow known as the penumbra and a full, dark shadow, called the umbra. After initially entering the penumbra, the full moon will start entering the umbra at 2:18 a.m., gradually darkening and reddening until maximum eclipse is reached at 4:02 a.m. The moon then will start exiting the umbra, followed by the penumbra, until the eclipse ends completely at 7:03 a.m.
No special equipment is needed to safely observe a lunar eclipse, unlike a solar eclipse, which should never be looked at directly without special protective gear. A pair of binoculars can reveal more detail of the moon’s surface. For photography buffs, NASA has tips here for how to best photograph the moon and eclipses.
In State Parks’ Long Island Region, several Parks will remain open for those who want to observe the Beaver Moon eclipse. A requirement for a stargazing permit, which is normally needed to be in those parks after normal operating hours, is being waived for this event.
Long Island State Parks that will remain open for viewing are:
- Sunken Meadow State Park – Field 3
- Montauk Point State Park – Upper Parking Lot
- Wildwood State Park – Field 1 Parking Lot
- Orient Beach State Park – Main Parking Lot
- Hallock State Park Preserve
- Robert Moses State Park – Field 2
Upstate, the light pollution that present around metropolitan New York City is not as much of an issue, so finding a place to see the eclipse will be relatively simple.
Some of the darkest night skies in the New York are found in the Adirondack Region, and the John Brown Farm State Historic Site outside of Lake Placid will be open that night and morning with a telescope available for visitors who want to see the Beaver Moon eclipse.
And for those interested in astronomy, keep in mind that State Parks offer a variety of stargazing events throughout the year, with a calendar listing available here.
Some Parks also host events by local astronomy clubs, like the Mid-Hudson Astronomy Association in the Hudson Valley which has a Dec. 3 public event at Lake Taghkanic State Park and the Rockland Astronomy Club, which has an November 27 event at the Anthony Wayne Area at Harriman State Park and Dec. 8 event at Rockefeller State Park Preserve. Rockefeller State Park Preserve also hosts free monthly stargazing events, with a Rockland Astronomy Club member donating use of telescope and his expertise. The next such event is Dec. 2.
At Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County, a telescope will be is expected available for visitors on the night of Dec. 14 for the Geminids meteor shower, which can produce up to 120 meteors a minute. Fort Niagara State Park will also be open Dec. 13 for the meteor shower.
Before making a trip, always call the specific park in advance to ensure such weather-dependent events are being held as scheduled.
And for those who aren’t able get outside the coming Beaver Moon eclipse, check out a virtual online telescope event for that night. Happy viewing!
Cover Shot- Lunar Eclipse (Photo Credit- NASA)
Post by Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer, NYS Parks