San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

COVER: A lunar eclipse in October 2014 and a multi-frame composite shot of a lunar eclipse in April 2014. PHOTO by LAUREN HARNETT/NASA. SAN MARCOS MERCURY INFOGRAPHIC by BRAD ROLLINS.


A full supermoon lunar eclipse – the first since 1982 and the last until 2033 — should be visible over Central Texas skies on Sunday.

Lunar eclipses are not terribly rare themselves — there has already been one this year and it will happen twice in 2016 — but rarely does an eclipse coincide with a supermoon, or perigee, the point when the moon is closest to earth in its orbit. The moon “will appear to be 12 to 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than when it is at its apogee, or the farthest it gets from the Earth,” writes Blanco resident Wayne Gosnell, volunteer leader of the Hill Country Alliance’s Night Skies program.

During the height of an eclipse, the moon is often referred to as a “blood moon” because it will appear nearly red in color, a reflection of sunlight filtered through the earth’s atmosphere.

A Comanche moon is a full moon at dusk when it is painted orange in the last of the day’s sunlight, so-called because Comanche warriors apparently preferred these lighting conditions for raids. Gosnell writes:

Thanks to the Hill Country’s relatively light-pollution-free night skies, we should have a great view of the eclipse if the weather cooperates.

Given the early hour and the warm temperatures, it will be a good time to get the young ones outdoors to see this extraordinary astronomical event. Having a good set of binoculars will make it all the more enjoyable.

Some people say it will be a “Blood Moon” because, once it is totally eclipsed, it may appear almost red in color, a phenomenon caused by sunlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere onto the surface of the moon during totality.

Eclipse watch parties are planned at state parks and natural areas across the state, including McKinney Falls State Park in Austin and at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area near Fredericksburg.


CLARIFICATION 09/26/15: A lunar eclipse can only occur with a full moon. An earlier version of this article left that unclear.

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