What is a lunar eclipse?
An eclipse of the Moon happens when the Earth is 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).
What is a total lunar eclipse?
During a total lunar eclipse, the Moon usually turns a deep red because it is illuminated by light that has passed through the Earth’s atmosphere and has been bent back towards the Moon by refraction. Due to the dark red colour, it is also known as a blood moon.
When is the next total lunar eclipse?
There will be a total lunar eclipse on the 16th May 2022 and will be visible over South America, most of North America and parts of Europe and Africa. Here in the UK, we will not be able to see every part of the eclipse, but will still be able to see the lunar eclipse at totality when the entire Moon turns red.
The Moon will start to enter the Earth’s shadow just after 2.30am, and the full eclipse will happen just before 4.30am.
The entire eclipse lasts for more than five hours, ending at 7.50am. However, observers in the UK will only be able to see the eclipse from 2.32am – 5.10am as the Moon will be below the horizon after this time.
How can I see the lunar eclipse?
Unlike solar eclipses which require special glasses to view and can only be seen for a very short time, lunar eclipses can be seen for up to an hour by anyone on the night-time side of Earth – as long as skies are clear. Telescopes and binoculars are helpful to see the details and features of the eclipse, such as a band of blue at the start and end of totality which is caused by the upper part of the Earth’s atmosphere filtering the red wavelengths from the sunlight, giving it a blueish turquoise colour. You can of course simply view it with your bare eyes, and it can also be captured on camera.
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) causing it to appear red. The whole of the Moon will still be visible during this time.
There will be another total eclipse in 2022 on the 7th of November, however, this will unfortunately not be visible from the UK, with the best places to see it in North America, Russia and parts of the Pacific Ocean.