Penumbral Lunar Eclipse of 14 March 2006

penumbral eclipse of 14 March 2006

On the evening of 14 March 2006 a penumbral eclipse was visible from the Netherlands. The greatest eclipse was at 23:47 UT. Penumbral eclipses are sometimes called "invisible" eclipses as the moon does not enter the earth's main shadow or umbra. However, inspired by David H. Levy's article In Praise of Penumbral Eclipses (Sky & Telescope, Sep 2005, p 113) I decided to stay up and watch and photograph this eclipse. It was also a good rehearsal for taking pictures during the total solar eclipse on March 29.

I sent the picture to David Levy, to let him know that there are others as well interested in penumbral eclipse. I also wrote to him  that I always enjoy reading his Star Trails in Sky & Telescope. On the right is the friendly e-mail I received in return from David. He even included a picture he took from an airplane just after sunset.
Dear Hans,

Thank you for sharing your wonderful eclipse picture with me. What a beautiful picture! My adventure, since the eclipse was just to the east of where I live in Arizona, was from an airplane window. The picture I offer shows the Earthshadow right after sunset, plus the Moon through the airplane window. The second reflection shows the eclipse right after you took your picture.

With all best wishes

David Levy

The Dutch astronomy magazine Zenit published a two page article in their May 2006 issue on this eclipse. It contains picture of the event, including mine, as well as short report written by me.

Eclipse path by Fred Espenak, NASA GSFC


How to visualise a penumbral eclipse: if you were standing on the moon, you would see partial eclipse of the sun by the earth.

The 14 March 2006 event was a so-called total penumbral eclipse, where the whole moon is in the penumbra, and no part in the umbra, nor outside the penumbra, see the picture to the left. Although not spectacular, these are rare events. The next one will be on 29 August 2053, and in some centuries there are none at all. The number of total penumbral eclipse for a given length of time is governed by a period of 586 year. More information on this is given in Jean Meeus, Mathematical Astronomical Morsels, chapter 17.

The next total lunar eclipse visible from the Netherlands will be in less than a year's time on 3 March 2007.