Total Lunar Eclipse 2022: Everything you need to know about Blood Moon

North American Skygazers can see the moon take on a reddish hue on the night of May 15-16.

Nearly a year after the last total lunar eclipse, the sight of the moon gliding through Earth’s shadow returns and graces the sky.

Viewers in most of North America, all of Latin America, Western Europe, most of Africa and the Eastern Pacific will see the Moon darken and acquire a reddish hue from the late evening of May 15 until the early hours of May 16.

The Moon traces a course through the southern half of the Earth’s shadow and is expected to last eighty-five minutes. The mid-eclipse will take place on May 16 (4:12 a.m. in universal time), about a day and a half earlier than the Moon will reach perigee, the point in its orbit where it is closest to Earth. On the night of the eclipse, the Moon will appear about 12% larger than when it is at apogee (farthest from Earth in its orbit). However, in all likelihood, the most committed Moon watchers will observe it. The May 15-16 eclipse could be quite dark, but look for some brightening along the Moon’s southern limb.

Viewers may have the opportunity to see the summertime Milky Way glowing pleasantly during totality as the overwhelming brightness of the Full Moon is dimmed by Earth’s shadow.

The stages of the eclipse occur simultaneously for everyone, but not everyone will see the full eclipse. Weather permitting, observers from the eastern half of North America will witness the entire event beginning the evening of May 15, with the partial eclipse phase beginning approximately two hours after sunset. for the East Coast and about an hour after sunset for the Midwest. . On the west coast, the Moon will be about to enter totality when it rises at sunset. And in the northwest, the Moon is rising as the final stages of the eclipse are already underway. Most Alaskans will have to abstain, however.

South America will see the full show, starting the evening of May 15, while viewers in Western Europe and Africa will need to set their alarms to enjoy the event in the hours before dawn. of May 16. For observers in the British Isles, the Moon sets while completely immersed in the dark, inner shadow of the Earth, while viewers in New Zealand will see the event come to an end on the evening of May 16, so that the Moon rises as it emerges from the Earth’s shadow. .

Mechanics of a lunar eclipse

“A lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth and full Moon form a near perfect alignment in space, in what is called syzygy,” explains Diana Hannikainen, Observing Editor at Sky & Telescope. The Moon slips into Earth’s shadow, gradually darkening, until the entire lunar disk turns from a silvery gray to an eerie dark orange or red. Then, events unfold in reverse order, until the Moon regains its full brilliance. The whole process for the May 16 eclipse will take about five hours and 20 minutes.

The event has five stages, each with different things to watch.

(1) The leading edge of the Moon enters the pale outer fringe of the Earth’s shadow: the penumbra. You probably won’t notice anything until the Moon has reached half twilight.

The penumbra is the region where an astronaut standing on the Moon would see the Earth covering only part of the face of the Sun.

(2) The leading edge of the Moon enters the umbra, the Earth’s shadow cone in which the Sun is completely hidden. You should notice a dramatic darkening on the leading edge of the lunar disk. With a telescope, you can watch the edge of the shadow slowly engulf one lunar feature after another as the entire sky begins to darken.

(3) The trailing edge of the Moon slips into shadow for the onset of the total eclipse. But the Moon will not go out completely: it will certainly shine with an intense shade of orange or red.

Why is it? Earth’s atmosphere scatters and deflects (refracts) sunlight that brushes against its edges, deflecting some toward the eclipsed Moon. This is the same effect that occurs at sunset. If you were on the Moon during a lunar eclipse, you would see the Sun hidden by a dark Earth bordered by the reddish light of all the sunrises and sunsets ringing the globe at that time.

The red umbral glow can look very different from one eclipse to the next. Two main factors affect its brightness and hue. The first is simply the depth to which the Moon penetrates the umbra as it passes through it; the center of the shadow is darker than its edges. The other factor is the state of the Earth’s atmosphere. If a major volcanic eruption has recently polluted the stratosphere with a fine global haze, a lunar eclipse can be dark red, ash brown, or sometimes almost black.

Additionally, blue light is refracted through Earth’s clear, ozone-rich upper atmosphere above the thicker layers that produce the red colors of sunrise and sunset. This ozone-blue light also tints the Moon, especially near the edge of the shadow. You will need binoculars or a telescope to see this effect.

(4) As the Moon continues to move along its orbit, events replay in reverse order. The edge of the Moon re-emerges into sunlight, ending totality and beginning a partial eclipse again.

(5) When the whole Moon escapes shading, only the last penumbral shading remains. Some time later, nothing unusual remains.

(4) As the moon moves along the orbit, events will take place in reverse order. The lunar branches reappear in the sun, ending with a total solar eclipse and beginning again with a partial solar eclipse.

(5) When the whole moon leaves the umbrella, only the last shadow of the penumbra remains. After a while, there is nothing unusual left.


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