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Total Lunar Eclipse

This is advance notice of a total lunar eclipse that takes place this weekend. Available for everyone in the northern hemisphere to enjoy.

A total lunar eclipse is when the moon passes through the shadow of the Earth. It happens in several stages, the first being the penumbral phase. This begins at 02.32 BST on 16 May. The penumbral eclipse means that although most of the sun’s light is blocked, some rays can still reach the moon. It creates a subtle darkening effect that can easily go unnoticed.

For those located in the Eastern time zone of the U.S., the penumbral stage of the eclipse will begin at 9:32 p.m. ET on 15 May and the whole event will be over by 2:50 a.m. ET on 16 May. The maximum eclipse will occur at 12:12 a.m. ET.

More dramatic is the second stage, the umbral eclipse. This is when we can see the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow passing across the lunar surface. It begins at 03.27 BST and culminates in the moon becoming fully eclipsed at 04.29 BST. In the full eclipse phase, the moon appears to turn coppery red. This is because the Earth’s atmosphere bends some of the sun’s light towards it.

The technical word for such an occurrence is syzygy - a term that can be applied to the roughly straight-line configuration of three (or more) celestial bodies in a gravitational system.

From the UK, the moon will set soon after this but the eclipse will continue until 0750 BST. Central and southern America, and the eastern regions of North America will be able to watch the entire spectacle. Apologies to our friends Down Under, it will not be visible from Australia.

"Please go out and enjoy the wondrous sight of our closest celestial neighbor glow in all shades of intense orange or red," Diana Hannikainen, observing editor at Sky & Telescope magazine, told Newsweek. "Eclipses are a great opportunity to witness our solar system in action!"


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