It’s a real red-letter day in the werewolf calendar. This Sunday May 15 (or rather the wee small hours of May 16) there’s going to be a total lunar eclipse which will make the moon look as though it is glowing blood-red. Get working on that howl.
Obviously this timing is a bit of a factor, as our eyes afterwards may look reminiscent of the red moon when we have to get up and go to work totally sleep-deprived from staying up to watch the night sky. According to the Royal Observatory – who we generally defer to in all matters astronomical – if you are in the UK you’ll only be able to see the eclipse between 2.32am and 5.10am. The moon slips below the horizon after that point.
For Londoners, they advise that ‘The optimal viewing time to see the eclipse is between 4.29am and 5.06am. This is the period of totality in London, where the moon lies entirely in the earth’s umbra (full shadow), appearing red. The whole of the moon will still be visible.’
So what happens during a lunar eclipse? In the absence of ping-pong ball (moon) tennis ball (earth) and football (sun) to demonstrate, we’ll rely on the expert explanation from the Royal Observatory once more:
“An eclipse of the moon occurs when the earth lies directly between the sun and the moon and the moon lies in the shadow of the earth. For a total lunar eclipse to happen, all three bodies lie in a straight line. This means that the moon passes through the darkest part of the earth’s shadow – the umbra.’
Total ‘blood-moon’ eclipses are a bit of a rarity: the last partial eclipse was in November last year (but only the early part was visible in the UK, and the moon had set before the eclipse reached its maximum). It was way back in January 2019 that there was total lunar eclipse, which happened during the first full moon of the year, earning it the nickname ‘Super Wolf Blood Moon’ which sounds suspiciously like the name of a Finnish entry to Eurovision to us. Get your howl on.
Royal Observatory Greenwich, Greenwich Park, SE10 8XJ.
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