Environment

Check Out Friday's Beaver Moon, the Longest Partial Eclipse in Nearly 600 Years

Catch a glimpse of the Beaver Moon partial lunar eclipse early Friday morning.
Catch a glimpse of the Beaver Moon partial lunar eclipse early Friday morning. Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
In the wee morning hours on Friday, Nov. 19, night owls and insomniacs are getting a treat: a glimpse at the "beaver moon" near-total lunar eclipse.

The event is this year’s second lunar eclipse, but it’s arguably more memorable. It’ll be the longest partial lunar eclipse in almost six centuries.

Starting at around 1 a.m. in North Texas, the moon will begin to slip into the earth’s shadow, said Levent Gurdemir, the planetarium director at the University of Texas at Arlington.

“The moon will look like it is going to develop a red spot from its top, and that red spot [over] time, it will get larger and larger until it covers the almost entire surface of the moon,” he said. “Around 3 a.m., it will just leave a bright crease along the bottom, and the remainder of the moon will likely appear dark red.”


This partial lunar eclipse will be the longest one of the century, lasting more than 6 hours with a peak of 3 hours, 28 minutes and 23 seconds, according to Space.com.

Lunar eclipses aren't rare events, Gurdemir said, but many headlines (including ours) point to this one’s extended duration. The media also came up with the term “blood moon” to describe when the dark side of the moon turns a deep crimson hue.

To our ancestors, lunar eclipses would portend future misfortune, he added.

“An object you see every day in the sky, it repeats its cycles … and one night it starts changing its color, it darkens and it disappears,” Gurdemir said. “So, it certainly gave a lot of fears to the observers because they did not know what was going on.”

"For those who are awake and have open access to the sky, they will certainly notice the difference.” – Levent Gurdemir, UTA's planetarium director

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The full beaver moon got its name because during this time of year, beavers begin sheltering with their food storage, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Centuries ago in North America, it also coincided with the fur trade’s beaver-trapping season, when the animals were hunted for their pelts.


But many indigenous peoples have their own names for November's full moon.

According to the Almanac, the Tlingit call it a “digging (or scratching) moon,” conjuring images of foraging animals and bears digging dens. The “deer rutting moon” is a term used by the Dakota and Lakota to coincide with when deer search for mates. And the Algonquin have coined it the “whitefish moon” as a nod to that species' spawning season.

Other tribes braced for the winter, with the Anishinaabe calling it the “freezing moon” and the Cree and Assiniboine dubbing it the “frost moon.”

Lunar eclipses occur when the moon glides into Earth’s shadow for a period of time, according to NASA. In a video posted to YouTube, the space agency acknowledged that partial eclipses are less glamorous than total ones, but they are more common.
To watch this lunar event, Gurdemir recommends using the naked eye, although some people may find binoculars or a small telescope to be helpful.

“Unfortunately, it’s pretty late — a lot of people will be sleeping at that time and probably it will go unnoticed,” he said. “But for those who are awake and have open access to the sky, they'll certainly notice the difference.”

Looking ahead, mark your calendars for 2024's total solar eclipse, during which daylight will turn to night and the stars will appear in the middle of the day, Gurdemir said. Luckily, he added, "Dallas-Fort Worth is ... one of the best locations to view it."
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter