How to See the Earth's Shadow After Sunset This Evening


Illustration for article titled How to See the Earths Shadow After Sunset This Evening

Photo: Ilkka Koivula (Shutterstock)

You’ve watched the parade and the dog show. You’ve cooked, cleaned and had dinner. You’ve managed to avoid (or at least tune out) football. Now what? Why not head outside and take a look at the Earth’s shadow? It will be easier to spot than usual both today and tomorrow. Here’s how to find it in the evening sky.

How big is the Earth’s shadow?

Sure, humans and groundhogs have shadows, but an entire planet? Yup. And not surprisingly, it’s pretty big—as in, it extends hundreds of thousands of miles into space, according to EarthSky.org. (It can reach as far as the moon, which is what happens when there’s a lunar eclipse.) It’s so massive that you might have to turn your head in order to see the whole thing. And, because the Earth is round, its shadow is curved.

How to see the Earth’s shadow

Technically, it’s possible to spot the Earth’s shadow on any clear night, but it’ll be particularly visible today and tomorrow, thanks to the bright waxing gibbous moon (if you have clear skies, that is). Here are specific viewing instructions, courtesy of EarthSky.org:

The moon will be high in the east when the sun goes down. An unobstructed horizon and clear sky will increase your chances of seeing the dark blue of the Earth’s shadow capped by the pinkish Belt of Venus, below the moon. You’ll be looking opposite the sunset direction, roughly 30 to 60 minutes after sunset. If you look too soon, your sky will be too bright, but if you look too late, your sky will be too dark.

And that’s not all the night sky has in store for us: in a few days, not only will there be a full moon, but also a slight eclipse. As usual, we’ll let you know how to spot that, too.



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