March’s Eclipse and the Saros

This month’s total solar eclipse on March 20 belongs to a family of eclipses known as Saros 120. A Saros series is composed of a group of eclipses in which each eclipse is separated from the next (or previous) eclipse by 6,585.3 days. This equals 18 years 10 days 8 hours (or 18 years 11 days 8 hours, depending on the number of leap years over this interval).

The Saros period is special because any two eclipses separated by one Saros are very similar to each other. The Moon is nearly at the same position with respect to its node (the point where the Moon’s orbit crosses Earth’s orbit) and is also at almost the same distance from Earth. Not only that, the eclipse occurs at virtually the same time of year.

These coincidences arise because three of the Moon’s orbital periods repeat after one Saros period of 18 years 10.3 days. The three periods are:

Synodic Month (New Moon to New Moon)    = 29.531 days  = 29d 12h 44m
Draconic Month (node to node)           = 27.212 days  = 27d 05h 05m
Anomalistic Month (perigee to perigee)  = 27.555 days  = 27d 13h 18m

If you work out the math, you find that:


  223 Synodic Months        = 6585.322 days   = 6585d 07h 43m
  242 Draconic Months       = 6585.358 days   = 6585d 08h 35m
  239 Anomalistic Months    = 6585.538 days   = 6585d 12h 54m

The biggest drawback of the Saros period is that it’s not equal to a whole number of days. The extra 8 hours means that Earth rotates an additional 1/3 of a day so subsequent eclipses are visible from different parts of the globe. For solar eclipses in a Saros series, this means that each successive eclipse path shifts about 120 degrees westward.

The paths of solar eclipse of Saros 136 show a westward shift of about 120 degrees with each succeeding eclipse. The northward shift is due to the shift in the Moon's position with respect to its node. Drawing courtesy of Fred Espenak.

The paths of solar eclipse of Saros 136 show a westward shift of about 120 degrees with each succeeding eclipse. The northward shift is due to the shift in the Moon’s position with respect to its node. Drawing courtesy of Fred Espenak.

Of course, the agreement between the Moon’s three periods isn’t perfect over one Saros period. Consequently, a Saros series of eclipses has a finite lifetime lasting from 12 to 15 centuries. Each series begins with a small partial eclipse near one of the poles. Each partial eclipse grows larger as the Moon passes progressively closer to the node until its umbral shadow finally crosses Earth producing either a total or annular eclipse. After 50 or 60 of these central eclipses, the Saros series ends with a final group of partial eclipses at the opposite pole.

There are currently 40 different Saros series in progress, each one with its own assigned number. Some of them are relatively young like Saros 145 that includes the next American total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017. Others are old like Saros 120.

This month’s total solar eclipse is the 61st eclipse of Saros 120. The family began with a series of 7 partial eclipses starting on May 27, 933. The first central eclipse was annular and took place on Aug. 11, 1059. After 24 more annular and 4 hybrid eclipses, the series changed to total on June 20, 1582. Subsequent members of Saros 120 were all total eclipses with maximum durations hovering around 2 minutes. One eclipse in the series occurred on Jan. 24, 1925 and passed through New Your City. Another eclipse on Feb. 26, 1979 was the most recent total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States.

The paths of the final 7 total solar eclipse of Saros 120 show both the westward and northern shift of the eclipse paths with each succeeding eclipse. The northward shift is due to the shift in the Moon's position with respect to its node. ©2015 by Fred Espenak.

The paths of the final 7 total solar eclipse of Saros 120 show both the westward and northern shift of the eclipse paths with each succeeding eclipse. The northward shift is due to the shift in the Moon’s position with respect to its node. ©2015 by Fred Espenak.

The Mar. 20, 2015 eclipse is the 25th total eclipse in the series and actually has one of the longest durations (2 minutes 47 seconds). The next member of the series occurs on Mar. 30, 2033 is the last total eclipse of Saros 120. The following 9 eclipses are all partial terminating with the final eclipse of the series on Jul. 07, 2195. Complete details for the 71 eclipses in the series (in the sequence of 7 partial, 25 annular, 4 hybrid, 26 total, and 9 partial) may be found at: Saros 120.

For more införmation on the Saros and eclipses, see:
Periodicity of Solar Eclipses.

The total solar eclipse of Mar. 20, 2015 is visible from within a wide corridor that traverses the North Atlantic. A partial eclipse is visible from Europe, North Africa and western Asia. ©2014 by Fred Espenak.

The total solar eclipse of Mar. 20, 2015 is visible from within a wide corridor that traverses the North Atlantic. A partial eclipse is visible from Europe, North Africa and western Asia. ©2014 by Fred Espenak.

Finally, for complete details on March’s solar eclipse, see:
Total Solar Eclipse of 2015 Mar 20.

Fred Espenak


Events for March 2015

The following table gives the date and time of important astronomical events for March 2015. The time of each event is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). To convert GMT to Eastern Standard Time (EST) just subtract 5 hours. To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones. Some of the astronomical terms used in the calendar are explained in Definitions.

 Date    GMT   Astronomical Events for March 2015
------  -----  --------------------------------------------
        (h:m)
Mar 03  07:56  Jupiter 5.5°N of Moon
Mar 04  14:29  Regulus 4.0°N of Moon
Mar 05  07:35  Moon at Apogee: 406386 km
Mar 05  18:05  FULL MOON 
Mar 06  20     Mercury at Aphelion 
Mar 07  21:04  Moon at Ascending Node 
Mar 08  22:21  Spica 3.4°S of Moon
Mar 12  08:25  Saturn 2.3°S of Moon
Mar 13  17:48  LAST QUARTER MOON 
Mar 19  04:57  Mercury 5.2°S of Moon
Mar 19  19:38  Moon at Perigee: 357584 km
Mar 20  09:36  NEW MOON 
Mar 20  09:46  Total Solar Eclipse; mag=1.045
Mar 20  22:45  Vernal Equinox 
Mar 21  02:19  Moon at Descending Node 
Mar 21  22:13  Mars 1.0°N of Moon: Occultation
Mar 22  19:51  Venus 2.8°N of Moon
Mar 25  06:55  Aldebaran 0.9°S of Moon
Mar 27  07:43  FIRST QUARTER MOON 
Mar 30  10:19  Jupiter 5.6°N of Moon
Mar 31  20:45  Regulus 4.0°N of Moon

As the events above transpire, I will post photographs of some of them at Recent Images.

Astronomical events calendars for complete years and for eight time zones are available through the links below.

Time Zones Calendars of Astronomical Events
Greenwich Mean Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Atlantic Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Eastern Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Central Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Mountain Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Pacific Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Alaska Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Hawaii Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

For additional years, see Calendars of Astronomical Events.

For detailed information on solar and lunar eclipses this year, see: Eclipses During 2015.

The Calendars of Astronomical Events were all generated by a computer program I wrote (with THINK Pascal running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak



Events for February 2015

The following table gives the date and time of important astronomical events for February 2015. The time of each event is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). To convert GMT to Eastern Standard Time (EST) just subtract 5 hours. To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones. Some of the astronomical terms used in the calendar are explained in Definitions.

 Date    GMT   Astronomical Events for February 2015
------  -----  --------------------------------------------
        (h:m)
Feb 03  23:09  FULL MOON 
Feb 04  08:35  Jupiter 5.2°N of Moon
Feb 05  08:17  Regulus 4.0°N of Moon
Feb 06  06:25  Moon at Apogee: 406155 km
Feb 06  17     Jupiter at Opposition 
Feb 08  17:10  Moon at Ascending Node 
Feb 09  16:23  Spica 3.3°S of Moon
Feb 12  03:50  LAST QUARTER MOON 
Feb 13  00:10  Saturn 2.1°S of Moon
Feb 17  06:20  Mercury 3.5°S of Moon
Feb 18  23:47  NEW MOON 
Feb 19  07:29  Moon at Perigee: 356992 km
Feb 21  00:56  Venus 2.0°S of Moon
Feb 21  01:28  Mars 1.5°S of Moon
Feb 21  16:05  Moon at Descending Node 
Feb 24  16     Mercury at Greatest Elongation: 26.7°W
Feb 25  17:14  FIRST QUARTER MOON 
Feb 25  23:02  Aldebaran 1.0°S of Moon
Feb 26  04     Neptune in Conjunction with Sun 

As the events above transpire, I will post photographs of some of them at Recent Images.

Astronomical events calendars for complete years and for eight time zones are available through the links below.

Time Zones Calendars of Astronomical Events
Greenwich Mean Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Atlantic Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Eastern Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Central Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Mountain Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Pacific Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Alaska Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Hawaii Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

For additional years, see Calendars of Astronomical Events.

For detailed information on solar and lunar eclipses this year, see: Eclipses During 2015.

The Calendars of Astronomical Events were all generated by a computer program I wrote (with THINK Pascal running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak



Events for January 2015

The following table gives the date and time of important astronomical events for January 2015. The time of each event is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). To convert GMT to Eastern Standard Time (EST) just subtract 5 hours. To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones. Some of the astronomical terms used in the calendar are explained in Definitions.

 Date    GMT   Astronomical Events for January 2015
------  -----  --------------------------------------------
        (h:m)
Jan 02  11:35  Aldebaran 1.4°S of Moon
Jan 04  02     Quadrantid Meteor Shower
Jan 04  06     Earth at Perihelion: 0.98328 AU
Jan 05  04:53  FULL MOON 
Jan 08  08:16  Jupiter 5.1°N of Moon
Jan 09  01:34  Regulus 4.1°N of Moon
Jan 09  18:17  Moon at Apogee: 405411 km
Jan 11  01     Mercury 0.6° of Venus
Jan 12  15:33  Moon at Ascending Node 
Jan 13  09:27  Spica 3.1°S of Moon
Jan 13  09:47  LAST QUARTER MOON 
Jan 14  20     Mercury at Greatest Elongation: 18.9°E
Jan 16  11:52  Saturn 1.9°S of Moon
Jan 20  13:14  NEW MOON 
Jan 21  17:39  Mercury 3.0°S of Moon
Jan 21  20:06  Moon at Perigee: 359643 km
Jan 21  21     Mercury at Perihelion 
Jan 22  05:01  Venus 5.6°S of Moon
Jan 23  04:40  Mars 3.9°S of Moon
Jan 25  10:23  Moon at Descending Node 
Jan 27  04:48  FIRST QUARTER MOON 
Jan 29  17:07  Aldebaran 1.2°S of Moon
Jan 30  14     Mercury at Inferior Conjunction 

As the events above transpire, I will post photographs of some of them at Recent Images.

Astronomical events calendars for complete years and for eight time zones are available through the links below.

Time Zones Calendars of Astronomical Events
Greenwich Mean Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Atlantic Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Eastern Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Central Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Mountain Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Pacific Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Alaska Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Hawaii Standard Time 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

For additional years, see Calendars of Astronomical Events.

For detailed information on solar and lunar eclipses this year, see: Eclipses During 2015.

The Calendars of Astronomical Events were all generated by a computer program I wrote (with THINK Pascal running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak



Moon in 2015

Moon Phases Mosaic

A mosaic made from 9 individual photos of the Moon captures its phases over one synodic month. For complete details about this image, see Moon Phases Mosaic. The individual images included in this composite can be found in the Moon Phases Gallery. For more composites, see Moon Phases Mosaics. Photo copyright 2012 by Fred Espenak.

As the Moon orbits Earth, its changing geometry with respect to the Sun produces the Moon’s characteristic phases (New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon and Last Quarter). One orbit of the Moon relative to the Sun (the synodic month) has a mean duration of 29.53 days.

                    Moon Phases for 2015 (GMT)

   New Moon       First Quarter       Full Moon        Last Quarter
-------------     -------------     -------------     -------------   
                                    Jan  5  04:53     Jan 13  09:47    
Jan 20  13:14     Jan 27  04:48     Feb  3  23:09     Feb 12  03:50    
Feb 18  23:47     Feb 25  17:14     Mar  5  18:06     Mar 13  17:48    
Mar 20  09:36 T   Mar 27  07:43     Apr  4  12:06 t   Apr 12  03:44    
Apr 18  18:57     Apr 25  23:55     May  4  03:42     May 11  10:36    
May 18  04:13     May 25  17:19     Jun  2  16:19     Jun  9  15:42    
Jun 16  14:05     Jun 24  11:03     Jul  2  02:20     Jul  8  20:24    
Jul 16  01:24     Jul 24  04:04     Jul 31  10:43     Aug  7  02:03    
Aug 14  14:54     Aug 22  19:31     Aug 29  18:35     Sep  5  09:54    
Sep 13  06:41 P   Sep 21  08:59     Sep 28  02:50 t   Oct  4  21:06    
Oct 13  00:06     Oct 20  20:31     Oct 27  12:05     Nov  3  12:24    
Nov 11  17:47     Nov 19  06:27     Nov 25  22:44     Dec  3  07:40    
Dec 11  10:29     Dec 18  15:14     Dec 25  11:11                      

The table above lists the date and time of the Moon’s phases throughout 2015. The time of each phase is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). I’ve generated a table of the Moon’s phases covering 100 years at Moon’s Phases – 21st Century (GMT). Similar 100-year tables for other time zones include Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central Standard Time (CST), Mountain Standard Time (MST), and Pacific Standard Time (PST). To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones.

What surprises many people is that the length of the synodic month can vary by over 6 hours from its mean value of 29.5306 days (29 days 12 hours 44 minutes). The table below gives the date of New Moon, the length of the synodic month, and the difference from the synodic month’s mean value for every synodic month in 2015. For instance, the fourth synodic month of 2015 (beginning Apr 18) is 3 hours 28 minutes shorter than the mean while the tenth month (beginning Oct 13) is 4 hours 57 minutes longer than the mean.

              Synodic Months for 2015 

   Date/Time of          Length of        Dif. from
  New Moon (GMT)       Synodic Month      Mean Month 
------------------     -------------     -----------
2015 Jan 20  13:14      29d 10h 34m       -02h 10m
2015 Feb 18  23:47      29d 09h 49m       -02h 55m
2015 Mar 20  09:36      29d 09h 21m       -03h 23m
2015 Apr 18  18:57      29d 09h 16m       -03h 28m     shortest
2015 May 18  04:13      29d 09h 52m       -02h 52m
2015 Jun 16  14:05      29d 11h 19m       -01h 25m
2015 Jul 16  01:24      29d 13h 29m       +00h 45m
2015 Aug 14  14:53      29d 15h 48m       +03h 04m
2015 Sep 13  06:41      29d 17h 24m       +04h 40m
2015 Oct 13  00:06      29d 17h 41m       +04h 57m     longest
2015 Nov 11  17:47      29d 16h 42m       +03h 58m      
2015 Dec 11  10:29      29d 15h 01m       +02h 17m   

The year 2008 had even greater extremes in the synodic month – from 5 hours 48 minutes shorter, to 6 hours 49 minutes longer than the mean value. So what causes these variations? The explanation lies in the fact that the Moon’s orbit is elliptical. If New Moon occurs when the Moon is nearest to Earth (perigee), then the synodic month is shorter than normal. On the other hand, if New Moon occurs when the Moon is farthest from Earth (apogee), then the synodic month is longer than normal. Furthermore, the orientation of the Moon’s ellipse-shaped orbit slowly rotates in space with a period of about 18 years. A more detailed discussion on this topic can be found at Moon’s Orbit and the Synodic Month. You can also find the duration of every synodic month this century at Length of the Synodic Month: 2001 to 2100.

Because the Moon orbits Earth in ~29.5 days with respect to the Sun, its daily motion against the background stars and constellations is quite rapid. It averages about 12.2° per day. A table giving the Moon’s daily celestial coordinates throughout the year can be found at Moon Ephemeris for 2015. This table lists a lot of other details about the Moon including its daily distance, apparent size, libration, phase age (days since New Moon) and the phase illumination fraction.

When a Full Moon occurs within 90% of the Moon’s closest approach to Earth in a given orbit, it is called a Super Moon. The Full Moon then appears especially big and bright since it subtends its largest apparent diameter as seen from Earth. The table below lists the Super Moons occurring in 2015.

              Super Moons for 2015

   Full Moon     Distance  Diameter  Relative
    (GMT)          (km)    (arc-min) Distance

Jul 31  10:43     365112     32.73    0.930
Aug 29  18:35     358993     33.29    0.985
Sep 28  02:50 t   356878 m   33.48    1.000
Oct 27  12:05     359324     33.26    0.982
Nov 25  22:44     366149     32.64    0.921

The Relative Distance listed in the Super Moon table expresses the Moon’s distance as a fraction between apogee (0.0) and perigee (1.0). For more information on Super Moons and a complete list of them for this century, see Full Moon at Perigee (Super Moon): 2001 to 2100.

Besides its obvious phases, the Moon also undergoes some additional extremes in its orbit including: Perigee and Apogee, Ascending/Descending Nodes, and Lunar Standstills. Each of these links covers lunar phenomena for the entire 21st Century.

Moon Phases Mosaic

As the Moon orbits Earth, its changing geometry with respect to the Sun produces the characteristic phases. This composite image is a mosaic made from 25 individual photos of the Moon and illustrates its phases over one synodic month. For complete details about this image, see Moon Phases Mosaic. The individual images included in this composite can be found in the Moon Phases Gallery. For more composites, see Moon Phases Mosaics. Photo copyright 2012 by Fred Espenak.

One of the first projects I tackled upon completing Bifrost Observatory in 2010 was to photograph the Moon’s phases every day for a complete month. Of course, the weather doesn’t always cooperate (even from sunny Arizona) so it actually took several months to complete the project. You can see the results at the Moon Phases Gallery. Clicking on any of the thumbnails pictures will give you an enlarged image with complete technical details. You can also visit Moon Phases Mosaics to see composites showing the Moon’s phases over a complete synodic month.

The NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio has used images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission to create clever animations of the Moon’s ever changing phases and librations in 2015. The example below illustrates the Moon’s phase and libration at hourly intervals throughout 2015, as viewed from the northern hemisphere. Each frame represents one hour.

Besides presenting the Moon’s phase and apparent size, the video shows the Moon’s orbit position, sub-Earth and subsolar points, distance from the Earth at true scale, and labels of craters near the terminator. As the Moon orbits Earth, it appears to wobble and tip on its axis. This motion is called libration and it allows us to see about 59% of the Moon’s surface. The major cause of libration is due to our changing line of sight because of the Moon’s elliptical orbit. For more Moon animations from NASA/Goddard, see Moon Phase and Libration, 2015.

Finally, what discussion of the Moon would be complete without mentioning eclipses in 2015? There are two eclipses of the Moon and both of them are total. The first occurs on April 04 and the second, six months later on September 28. Both of them are visible from parts of North America. By coincidence, the September 28 eclipse also happens to be the closest Super Moon of 2015.

There are also two solar eclipses in 2015. The first is a total eclipse in the North Atlantic on March 20 (visible from the Faroe Islands and Spitzbergen). The second is a partial solar eclipse visible from most of southern Africa and Antarctica on September 13. For complete details on all these events, see Eclipses During 2015 (EclipseWise.com).

Watching the Moon’s phases wax and wane as well as the occasional lunar eclipse can best be enjoyed with the naked eye and binoculars. And you don’t even need a dark sky since the Moon is easily visible from the heart of brightly lit cities.

The Moon phases and lunar phenomena discussed here were all generated with computer programs I’ve written (THINK Pascal and FORTRAN 90 running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak


October’s Partial Solar Eclipse

On October 23, 2014, a partial eclipse of the Sun was widely visible from North America (see: Partial Solar Eclipse of 2014 Oct 23). I observed the eclipse from Sacramento Peak, New Mexico while attending the 2014 Solar Eclipse Conference (see: 2014 Solar Eclipse Conference).

I wasn’t particularly excited about this event because I’ve seen many total solar eclipses (see: MrEclipse.com), but about one week before the eclipse, an enormous sunspot complex rotated into view. Designated AR2192, this active region was about the size of Jupiter making it the largest sunspot in 24 years (see: APOD: Giant Sunspot).

The AR2192 Sunspot group rotated into view from behind the Sun about a week before the partial solar eclipse. It was visible to the naked eye using a solar filter. ©2014 by Fred Espenak.

The AR2192 Sunspot group rotated into view from behind the Sun about a week before the partial solar eclipse. It was visible to the naked eye using a solar filter. ©2014 by Fred Espenak.

Suddenly, my interest was piqued because the sunspot would be well placed during the eclipse. I packed up my Vixen 90mm f/9 fluorite refractor and a Losmandy GM-8 equatorial for the trip to New Mexico. I usually test all my equipment days or weeks before an eclipse, but this was a busy time with several house guests and two talks to prepare before the eclipse conference, so no system testing was done.

Fred Espenak observes the partial solar eclipse from Sacramento Peak, NM. ©2014 by Pat Espenak.

Fred Espenak observes the partial solar eclipse from Sacramento Peak, NM. ©2014 by Pat Espenak.

I soon discovered two equipment problems as the eclipse began. Although my rechargeable battery was freshly charged, it died early into the eclipse. I then switched to my car battery. A second problem presented itself when the telescope failed to track the Sun. The fast/slow buttons of the drive worked to position the Sun, but it would slowly drift out of the field. My only recourse was to use the fast/slow buttons to recenter the Sun before each exposure.

Because I planned to shoot a time-lapse video of the eclipse I needed to make exposures quite frequently – in this case, every 30 seconds. Consequently, I had to remain near the telescope for the full 2.25 hours of the eclipse to center the Sun before every exposure. This was turning into much more work than I had anticipated, but the clear weather, good seeing and that wonderful sunspot kept me at my post until the eclipse ended.

At maximum eclipse, about 43% of the Sun's diameter was covered by the Moon. ©2014 by Fred Espenak.

At maximum eclipse, about 43% of the Sun’s diameter was covered by the Moon. ©2014 by Fred Espenak.

A month passed before I found the time to begin processing the 270 separate eclipse images in Adobe Photoshop. The first step was to create a circular reference template to manually center each photo. This took about 9 hours. I then created a Photoshop action to crop and resize the frames and to make adjustments to the histogram. Finally, the frames were assembled into a 10-frame-per-second time lapse video using Time Lapse Assembler on an 11″ Macbook Air and uploaded to Vimeo.

The resulting video shows the Moon gracefully swinging across the northern half of the Sun while sunspot AR2192 remains in full view.


Partial Solar Eclipse of 2014 Oct 23 from Fred Espenak on Vimeo.

And now, it’s time to begin preparing for the total solar eclipse of March 20, 2015 in the Faroe Islands (see: Total Solar Eclipse of 2015 Mar 20). Hopefully, I’ll do a better job of testing my gear before that eclipse!

Fred Espenak


Events for December 2014

The following table gives the date and time of important astronomical events for December 2014. The time of each event is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). To convert GMT to Eastern Standard Time (EST) just subtract 5 hours. To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones. Some of the astronomical terms used in the calendar are explained in Definitions.

 Date    GMT   Astronomical Events for December 2014
------  -----  --------------------------------------------
        (h:m)

Dec 02  08:32  Moon at Descending Node 
    06  12:27  FULL MOON 
    08  10     Mercury at Superior Conjunction 
    12  12     Mars at Perihelion 
    12  23:02  Moon at Apogee: 404584 km
    14  12:51  MOON AT LAST QUARTER 
    16  13:27  Moon at Ascending Node 
    19  20:55  Saturn 1.6°S of Moon
    21  23:03  Winter Solstice 
    22  01:36  NEW MOON 
    24  16:43  Moon at Perigee: 364791 km
    28  18:31  MOON AT FIRST QUARTER 
    29  09:27  Moon at Descending Node 

As the events above transpire, I will post photographs of some of them at Recent Images.

Astronomical events calendars for complete years and for five time zones are available through the links below.

Time Zones Calendars of Astronomical Events
Greenwich Mean Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Eastern Standard Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Central Standard Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Mountain Standard Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Pacific Standard Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

For additional years and time zones, see Calendars of Astronomical Events.

The sky events tables were all generated by a computer program I wrote (with THINK Pascal running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak


Events for November 2014

The following table gives the date and time of important astronomical events for November 2014. The time of each event is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). To convert GMT to Eastern Standard Time (EST) just subtract 5 hours. To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones. Some of the astronomical terms used in the calendar are explained in Definitions.

 Date    GMT   Astronomical Events for November 2014
------  -----  --------------------------------------------
        (h:m)

Nov 01  12     Mercury at Greatest Elong: 18.7°W
    03  00:21  Moon at Perigee: 367871 km
    04  12:10  Mercury-Spica: 3.9°N
    05  03:13  Moon at Descending Node 
    06  22:23  FULL MOON 
    14  15:16  MOON AT LAST QUARTER 
    15  01:56  Moon at Apogee: 404338 km
    18  08     Saturn-Sun Conjunction 
    19  08:18  Moon at Ascending Node 
    22  12:32  NEW MOON 
    27  23:11  Moon at Perigee: 369825 km
    29  10:06  MOON AT FIRST QUARTER 

As the events above transpire, I will post photographs of some of them at Recent Images.

Astronomical events calendars for complete years and for five time zones are available through the links below.

Time Zones Calendars of Astronomical Events
Greenwich Mean Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Eastern Standard Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Central Standard Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Mountain Standard Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Pacific Standard Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

For additional years and time zones, see Calendars of Astronomical Events.

The sky events tables were all generated by a computer program I wrote (with THINK Pascal running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak


Events for October 2014

The following table gives the date and time of important astronomical events for October 2014. The time of each event is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). To convert GMT to Eastern Standard Time (EST) just subtract 5 hours. To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones. Some of the astronomical terms used in the calendar are explained in Definitions.

 Date    GMT   Astronomical Events for October 2014
------  -----  --------------------------------------------
        (h:m)

Oct 01  19:33  MOON AT FIRST QUARTER 
    06  09:41  Moon at Perigee: 362481 km
    07  20     Uranus at Opposition 
    08  10:51  FULL MOON 
    08  10:55  Total Lunar Eclipse; mag=1.162
    08  17:44  Moon at Descending Node 
    15  19:12  MOON AT LAST QUARTER 
    16  21     Mercury at Inferior Conjunction 
    18  06:05  Moon at Apogee: 404898 km
    23  00:46  Moon at Ascending Node 
    23  21:45  Partial Solar Eclipse; mag=0.811
    23  21:57  NEW MOON 
    25  07     Venus at Superior Conjunction 
    25  16:04  Saturn 1.0°S of Moon: Occn.
    25  21     Mercury at Perihelion 
    31  02:48  MOON AT FIRST QUARTER 

As the events above transpire, I will post photographs of some of them at Recent Images.

Astronomical events calendars for complete years and for five time zones are available through the links below.

Time Zones Calendars of Astronomical Events
Greenwich Mean Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Eastern Standard Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Central Standard Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Mountain Standard Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Pacific Standard Time 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

For additional years and time zones, see Calendars of Astronomical Events.

The sky events tables were all generated by a computer program I wrote (with THINK Pascal running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak


Two New Eclipse Publications

Before I retired from NASA in 2009, I published a dozen special bulletins on upcoming solar eclipses as well as several other canons and catalogs of eclipses. I had a small but adequate budget for these publications as well as a great technical editor and page layout specialist. Goddard also had special contracts with companies to print these books very economically. I would typically order 2000 copies of each publication and store them in boxes stacked in my cramped office.

After retiring, I wondered how I could continue publishing eclipse bulletins (with meteorologist Jay Anderson’s essential contribution on eclipse weather) and other publications without the financial backing of NASA. I certainly didn’t want to lay out a big investment in pre-ordering hundreds of books which I would need to warehouse, not to mention handling orders, stuffing envelopes and dragging them to the post office for mailing.

Fortunately, print-on-demand (POD) services have become very popular in the last few years. You submit a finished manuscript in PDF format to the POD service. They print and mail the book as each order comes in. This seemed like the perfect solution for me – no up-front money, no pre-orders of books to store, package and mail. But how well does POD work? How quickly are the books printed and shipped? How good is the quality of the books and is the cost reasonable? I needed to test this process from start to finish. After a lot of research on-line about POD services, I decided to use CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon.

When Jean Meeus and I published the Five Millennium Canon of Solar Eclipses and its companion volume the Five Millennium Catalog of Solar Eclipses there was no plan to produce future canons. But in the years that followed, I found I was using the 1000–year period encompassing the present era of these two publications far more often than the rest. I began thinking how convenient it would be to have a subset of the Canon and Catalog in a single smaller volume.

The cover of the Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses.

The cover of the Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses.

This was the start of what ultimately became the Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses 1501 to 2500 and a test case for the entire print-on-demand process. As the design of the book took shape, new features were developed to distinguish it from the Five Millennium Canon. Most notably, the maps would be larger with 12 per page instead of 20. This increase in map size makes it easier to discern regions of eclipse visibility and, in addition, more curves of constant eclipse magnitude (25%, 50%, and 75%, instead of only 50%) can be included. Larger maps also allow the addition of more data including Delta T and the lunar node of the eclipse.

This sample map from the Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses shows the much anticipated total solar eclipse of 2017 through the United States.

This sample map from the Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses shows the much anticipated total solar eclipse of 2017 through the United States. (Click to enlarge)

I also decided to use the Jet Propulsion Lab’s DE406 — a computer ephemeris used for calculating high precision coordinates of the Sun and the Moon for thousands of years into the past and future. This is the basic foundation of any eclipse predictions and I wanted to compare the results to the NASA canons that used an older ephemeris for computing celestial coordinates.

I began writing the narrative and explanatory sections of the book in mid-2013 while simultaneously working on the software to generate the improved maps.The very same arguments for publishing a new solar eclipse canon were equally applicable to a complementary volume on lunar eclipses. So I found myself working on the manuscript of the Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses 1501 to 2500 at the same time.

The cover of the Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses.

The cover of the Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses.

The 1000-year period of the new solar eclipse canon includes 2,389 eclipses and there are individual maps for each one. Lunar eclipses occur slightly more frequently, so the new lunar eclipse canon covers 2,424 eclipses with a map and diagram for each. The two books include a tabular catalogs that lists the most essential parameters to characterize each eclipse.

In the spring of 2014, Patrick Poitevin pressed me for a title and abstract for a presentation I was giving at the 2014 International Solar Eclipse Conference in October. So I submitted an abstract about the two new eclipse canons. Nothing motivates me as much as a concrete deadline!

Now I had to get serious about finishing the manuscripts, finalizing the mapping software, generating 400 pages of maps, and doing the page layout for the two books. I also had to learn the ins-and-outs of ISBN numbers, designing book covers, and submitting the assembled manuscripts to CreateSpace. In the final stages of these projects, I realized that I could also publish a slightly more costly color edition of each, so I had four manuscripts with which to negotiate the approval process with CreateSpace.

A sample figure from the Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses shows the upcoming total lunar eclipse of October 8.

A sample figure from the Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses shows the upcoming total lunar eclipse of October 8. (Click to enlarge)

By mid-July, I was holding the proofs of all four books in my hands. I was delighted with the quality of the books – better that any of my NASA publications. And the turn-around time from placing an order on-line to receiving a hard copy in the mail is less that 5 business days.

I’m so pleased with the process that I already have a list of several other book projects including a NASA-style eclipse bulletin for the total solar eclipse of 2017, which passes through the USA.

If you’re interested in learning more about the new eclipse canons or even ordering a copy, just visit these links:

Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses
Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses
Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses – Color Edition
Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses – Color Edition

You can also download a sample page of eclipse maps from each book at:

Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses – sample map page
Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses – sample map page

Finally, eclipse chaser Michael Zeiler (www.GreatAmericanEclipse.com ) has written a very nice review at:

First Impressions on the New Canon of Solar Eclipses

Now it’s time to begin work on my next book…

Fred Espenak