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Eclipse, Reddish Super Moon Above Portland, Oregon, the Coast

Tuesday September 15, 2015    9:42 AM
(Oregon Coast) - A Super Moon (which also brings a super red and orange moon), a lunar eclipse, and the autumnal equinox. It's a triple treat for Oregon, including the Oregon coast and the Portland area. The moon at its closet to the Earth all year happens just as we have an eclipse – both on September 27 – while the equinox is on September 23.

You'll get two chances to observe these with help in the Portland area and the Oregon coast range, with viewing parties held by OMSI on September 19 and 27.

On the 27th, the full moon will slide through the dark shadow of the Earth and for 72 minutes the only light hitting the Full Harvest Moon will be a reddish glow from all of Earth's sunrises and sunsets resulting in a total lunar eclipse.

OMSI astronomer Jim Todd is calling this the "triple treat."

"Known as the Harvest Moon or full moon nearest the September equinox. this full moon happens to be the closest super moon of 2015," Todd said. "And there is a total eclipse of the moon on the same evening. A triple treat."

Todd said the moon will be at perigee on September 27 at 5:46 p.m., at a distance of 221,753 miles from Earth.

The totality of the eclipse begins at 7:11 p.m. with the point of the greatest eclipse occurring at 7:47 p.m.. The eclipse's total phase will last for 72 minutes. The Moon will be just 8 degrees above the eastern horizon at the instant of the greatest eclipse. Finally, the partial eclipse ends at 9:27 p.m.

However, just before all those interstellar happenings, on Wednesday, September 23 is the autumnal equinox for Pacific Time Zone at 1:20 a.m. PDT. Todd said this is the day on which both the north and south pole of the earth are equal distances towards the sun (93.2 million miles). At that instant the sun stands directly over the Earths equator. As a result, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are illuminated equally.

Why the orange/red color during the eclipse? Todd said it's a true physical effect.

"When looking toward the horizon, we are actually looking through a greater thickness of Earth's atmosphere than when looking directly overhead," Todd said. "The atmosphere scatters blue light (the reason the sky looks blue). The thickness of the atmosphere in the direction of a horizon scatters blue light most effectively, but it lets red light pass through. So a moon near the horizon takes on a yellow, orange or reddish hue. The Moon may actually appear be darker shade of red/orange due to the increase particles in the upper atmosphere from the summer fires around the Pacific Northwest."

You may also notice the moon looks much bigger at the horizon. It's a trick your eyes play on you, called "the moon illusion." Todd said it has to do with the brain thinking it looks bigger when the moon is close to something.

The first Star Party is on Saturday, September 19, at Rooster Rock State Park in the Gorge and Stub Stewart State Park in the Coast Range, starting at 7:30 pm. The party is free with $5 parking per vehicle parking fee. From beginners to experts of all ages, here's your opportunity to view the stars and other objects through a variety of telescopes. Viewing highlights include Saturn, Moon and more.

OMSI will host the second of two lunar eclipse viewings in 2015 on Sunday evening, September 27. at the OMSI south parking lot. Weather permitting; a free viewing of the eclipse will begin at 6:30 p.m.

For viewing on the Oregon coast, if the weather cooperates any spot along the beaches will do. But you may find it all more spectacular from high vantage points like Cape Foulweather near Depoe Bay, the pullouts just north of Cape Perpetua, the viewing areas just south of Cannon Beach at Silver Point, and the Neahkahnie overlooks by Manzanita.

If you're trying to use a camera on a tripod for the eclipse and reddish moon, the wind will be your greatest enemy. If the wind is coming from the SW, hiding on the northern face of a headland can help, such as at the Cove in Seaside or at Arch Cape. If the wind is from the NW, then the southern faces will help you, such as at Neahkahnie or at the very northern edges of Pacific City and Lincoln City. Some areas with prominent structures may help as well, such as the Lincoln City's NW 26th access or the Whale Watch Center at Depoe Bay.

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