Two rare lunar events converge tonight to give stargazers a possible glimpse of a stunning ‘super blood moon’. People around the world will be able to enjoy the spectacle, but according to NASA, those of us in the UK will have to stay up until the early hours of Sunday to see it – and hope the sky remains clear of clouds, YorkshireLive reports.
The event is a combination of a lunar eclipse — something that happens quite often when Earth passes between the moon and the sun, casting its shadow over our view of the moon — and two more unusual events. A so-called “blood moon” occurs when the moon turns red during a total lunar eclipse – or appears to be.
This happens because the only light reaching the moon comes from the edges of the Earth’s atmosphere and this has resulted in all the blue light being ‘scattered’, reflecting red light from the moon’s surface and appears red in the sky when we look at it from Earth. The ‘blood moon’ can also occur at other times when the moon appears red – for example, when there is dust, smoke or haze in the air or when the autumn leaves turn red.
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A “supermoon” is actually an informal name for something astrologers call a perigee full moon. That is, a full moon that occurs when the moon is closest to Earth during its orbit, making it appear larger in the night sky.
It seems bigger than usual because it is a bit closer. In the early hours of Sunday morning, these two special events coincide, meaning we’ll have the chance to see a rare ‘super blood moon’ – a moon that glows like a large red disk in the sky.
It will also be the first total lunar eclipse since May last year. It will take a little over five hours, but the moon will only be red for an hour and a quarter as the Earth’s shadow passes over it.
In Europe and the UK, it will begin at 2:28 a.m. on Sunday, May 15 and must turn red at 3:29 a.m., before the eclipse ends at 4:54 a.m.