Clouds may obstruct Anchorage's view of total lunar eclipse tonight

Tegan Hanlon
Earth's shadow almost completely covers the moon just before a total eclipse, photographed in Anchorage early August 28, 2007.
Bob Hallinen

Forecasters say clouds rolling into Anchorage late Monday may obscure residents' view of the first total eclipse of the moon for 2014.

But, luckily, this eclipse is only the first in a series. It's known as a tetrad: four total lunar eclipses, one every six months starting tonight. Meteorologists remain hopeful that pockets of clear sky over the city will provide periodic visibility. "It's not going to be a full overcast," said Tom Pepe with the National Weather Service.

Here's how the astronomical event will play out: Around 10 p.m., the full moon will begin to rise over the jagged peaks of the Chugach Mountains and enter a partial eclipse (unlike a solar eclipse, you can look without damaging your eyeballs). A lunar eclipse means the sun, Earth and moon are aligned and the moon tucks into Earth's shadow, said Travis Rector, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Alaska Anchorage. "It will look a bit like Pac-Man at first," he said, referring to a shadow that will start to envelop a bright moon. By 11:07 p.m., the moon will be completely dark, giving off a red-orange glow. This total phase will last until around 12:30 a.m., Rector said.

He advised people to look south. "The moon will be fairly low on the horizon," he said. "It's just simply this time of year."

This is the first total lunar eclipse since Dec. 10, 2011. The next will be Oct. 8, then April 4, 2015, and Sept. 28, 2015.

If the weather doesn't cooperate, here's good news: Slooh, a community observatory, will have a live online broadcast of the eclipse starting at 10 p.m.:

Reach Tegan Hanlon at or 257-4589.