Are you and your family ready for the Total Lunar Eclipse in a few days? January 20-21, 2019 will be the last total lunar eclipse visible for those of us in North America until 2021. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the earth’s shadow, and provides a chilly, mysterious midnight adventure for your family.
This lunar eclipse is extra special because it occurs at the same time as a supermoon! (A supermoon occurs when the moon’s orbit is at its closest point to the earth during a full moon; such a moon appears larger and brighter than usual.) January’s lunar eclipse will begin around 9:30 pm EST on January 20, and will reach totality after midnight EST. I found precise times for my family’s location here.
Enjoying a Lunar Eclipse
I always enjoy a lunar eclipse because 1) no special eye-wear, telescope, or other equipment is necessary, 2) it lasts much longer than a solar eclipse, and 3) it is an adventure the whole family can participate in regardless of age or experience. Plus, it is just fun to get excited about things. I’m raising lifelong learners, yes, but I also enjoy being one!
Enjoying the lunar eclipse can be as simple as heading outdoors with the family, armed with a thermos of hot chocolate and a sense of wonder. Especially if your weather is bitterly cold, you may want to wait until closer to the time when the moon will be fully eclipsed before you head outdoors! Or you can all go outside for periodic check-ins throughout the course of the eclipse.
Bonus points if you camp out in the backyard. Seriously. If you do this, please tag me on social media and I will send you *all* the brownie points. (@HumilityandDoxology on Instagram and Facebook) I, however, will definitely be sleeping indoors!
Lunar Eclipse and Astronomy Books and Activities
Perhaps you’d also like to take this opportunity to teach your children a bit more about the wonders of astronomy. Here are some simple ways to enjoy learning about astronomy any time of the year, and a few special ideas for studying the lunar eclipse:
- Astronomy Books
Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Jeannie Fulbright
Signs and Seasons Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy, Jay Ryan
Eclipses Illustrated, Jay Ryan
The Moon Book, Gail Gibbons
Stars, H. A. Rey
Fool Moon Rising, Kristi and T. Lively Fluharty
ABCs of Space, Chris Ferrie
Zoo in the Sky, Jacqueline Mitton
Glow in the Dark Night Sky Book, Clint Hatchett
The Glow in the Dark Book of Space, Nicholas Harris
Our Stars, Anne Rockwell
Exploring the Night Sky, Terence Dickinson
Moonshot, Brian Floca
- The free app, SkyView, (available for android and iPhone) is changing my life. Last Monday morning after my early exercise class, I noticed what appeared to be an incredibly bright star in the sky, with a slightly dimmer star closer to the horizon. I was pretty sure the former was Venus, but what was the latter? I opened up SkyView, pointed it at the sky, and all the stars and planets were identified for me! (That 2nd star? It was Jupiter!)
- Watch this brief NASA YouTube video that explains why a lunar eclipse occurs.
- Younger children may enjoy The Cat and the Hat Knows a Lot About Space
- The day after the last lunar eclipse we observed, my children colored pictures to represent what they remembered. If you have older children, perhaps they could even sketch various phases of the lunar eclipse in their nature journal throughout your evening’s observation. What a fun hands-on activity for morningtime!
- Want to explore space-inspired art more thoroughly? These video lessons are easy to follow and a delight for all ages! My children still often break out the black construction paper and paint a galaxy with chalk pastels.
- We wrote Haiku poems in response to our last lunar eclipse family adventure. Incorporating a narration (oral or written, depending on the ages of your children) or a free writing exercise in morning time the week after the eclipse is also a fun family activity. Mama, make sure you write, too!
- Visit a Planetarium! If you are within driving distance of a planetarium, it is worth the trip! We have sometimes bought an annual family pass that enables all of us to go to as many shows as we want in a year. My favorite part of a planetarium show is when they put up the stars for your particular location that will be visible that night! Sometimes planetariums also have special shows or activities around astronomical events like an eclipse.
- Can’t make it to a planetarium? You can always enjoy a glow-in-the-dark poster, glow-in-the-dark stars, and constellations on your socks (ha!) at home.
- Oreos make everything more fun. After you read about moon phases, let your children re-create them by carefully removing portions of the top cookie from the oreos to reveal the white moon-shape of the filling! Remember, “b is for born, d is for dying.” If the white, illuminated sliver of the moon is facing the same direction as a “b,” it is a waxing moon on its way to being full. If it is facing the direction of “d,” it is waning and will disappear completely in the days ahead.
- Look up. Sometimes it is just this simple. We head inside our houses at night, or walk briskly with our heads down towards the street or our phones. Next time you’re at your window or out and about at night, look up and see the stars. You may not know them by name, but look and wonder!
Do you plan to watch the lunar eclipse this January? What other ways can you find to pursue joy in 2019?
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.
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