Stargazers Prepare to Watch Total Lunar Eclipse

Most Europeans and cities around world are in for a celestial treat. A total lunar eclipse will be in full sight for stargazers on Friday and Saturday if weather permits. A live stream of the eclipse is available online at the Slooh website, which provides different angles from a variety of telescopes for viewers all over the world. In the UK, Moonrise is at about 8:49 p.m., so viewers will miss 19 minutes of the total lunar eclipse.

A total lunar eclipse is an exciting event, when the earth, sun, and moon are in alignment. The earth’s shadow falls onto the moon when the moon passes behind the earth. This week’s eclipse will last longer than any prior eclipses in a century. It’s going to be quite a sight because the moon will appear to have a reddish colour during the eclipse, called a blood moon.

A blood moon occurs because at the time of the total eclipse the moon is in Earth’s total shadow. Light from the planet’s sunsets and sunrises, through refraction, bounce onto the moon. The light waves look red as they stretch out, causing the moon to appear red as the light hits the moon’s surface.

In ancient times, many did not understand why the moon turned red. In one myth from Africa, the people believed the moon and sun were in a fight. The group, call Batammaliba, saw the eclipse as a time to resolve disputes and come together.

The eclipse is the longest this century, lasting 1 hour and 43 min. NASA predicts 85 total lunar eclipses will occur this century, out of 230 eclipses. January 21 is the date of the next total eclipse that will be visible in North America. The U.S. will miss this one unless they see it online.