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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Total Lunar Eclipse in Israel, January 21, 2019

Early Monday morning, January 21, 2019, a total eclipse of the moon will be visible from Israel and most of the Western Hemisphere. Here are the timings of the eclipse in Israel:

Timings of the January 21, 2019 lunar eclipse. These timings are exact for Tel Aviv but virtually the same throughout the country. 

This eclipse occurs very close to moonset and during dawn. Totality occurs just after moonset so a tiny sliver of the moon remains uneclipsed when the moon sets. Since the eclipse begins close to moonset you will need a very clear western horizon to view the event. Even better would be a high location with a clear horizon. In the East, Jupiter and Venus will be the bright pair of objects rising in the East, almost in conjunction with each other. (Actual conjunction will occur the next day, January 22, when the two planets are closest together in the sky.)

Since the moon will be so close to the horizon, the dense atmosphere may make it hard to see as the eclipse progresses and darkens. Binoculars will be useful in that situation.

The lunar eclipse begins at 4:36AM in Israel, with the moon setting in the Weat. This is an all-sky photo from the SkySafari Pro app.

Timings of the event are pretty close to those in Israel from everywhere in the world in Israel’s time zone which is GMT+2. You can look up your exact time and circumstances of the eclipse here:


Because totality occurs at moonset (6:39am) in Israel a very rare event called a "Selenelion" may be visible. Sunrise is at 6:37am; total eclipsed moon sets at 6:39am. Celestial geometry says the sun and totally eclipsed moon should never be visible simultaneously in the sky, since the moon is eclipsed because it passes through the earth’s shadow with the sun opposite in the sky. But due to refraction caused by the earth’s atmosphere when objects are near the horizon, both the sun and moon appear higher in the sky than they actually are. Thus you can see them both at the same time, the sun rising in the east, the eclipsed moon setting in the west. You must be viewing an eclipse at just this right time, as occurs in Israel and other similar time zones during this eclipse to see a Selenelion. 

Super Full Blood Wolf Moon

You may have read that this full moon (the moon can only be eclipsed when it is full with the earth between the sun and moon) is being called a Super Full Blood Wolf Moon. Kind of scary. In modern times a full moon at perigee, it’s closest approach to earth, has come to be called a Supermoon because it appears larger in the sky. (Actually only about 10% larger than a normal full moon). This is the first of three consecutive full Supermoons in 2019. Every full moon has a name from indigenous cultures and the Native Americans called the first full moon of January the Wolf moon, possibly because the wolves could be heard howling at it in the winter night. Eclipsed moons are frequently called “blood moons” because of the red color they take on when fully eclipsed, hence the name “Super Full Blood Wolf Moon”.

Now for the bad news. Skies are expected to be cloudy throughout Israel the morning of January 21. But you may still be able to see the eclipsed moon peeking out from between the clouds. Good luck!

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