Sky-watchers will be treated to a super blood moon next week as a total lunar eclipse is coinciding with a supermoon and expected to shine above most of Canada on Sunday night.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth, sun and moon are aligned so that the moon crosses in the inner part of the Earth’s shadow, called the umbra. When this happens, the sunlight becomes refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere and indirectly shines on the moon, causing the reddish colour that inspired the name “blood moon.”
“As the sunlight filters through the atmosphere of the Earth, it gets scattered. And the only colour of light that makes it through to the moon surface are the reddish-orange waves, what we call the longer wavelength radiations,” York University astronomy professor Paul Delaney told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Tuesday.
Because this full moon falls during the month of May, it’s also nicknamed the “flower moon” by the Old Farmer’s Almanac to celebrate the blooming of flowers in the spring.
Here’s how to catch a glimpse of the “super flower blood moon” this Sunday:
OUTSIDE, UNDER THE STARS
Lunar eclipses can be seen across an entire hemisphere, unlike solar eclipses, which are typically only visible across a small geographic area.
NASA says the totality of the lunar eclipse will occur around 11:29 p.m. EDT Sunday night and last until 12:54 a.m. EDT early Monday morning. The greatest eclipse will occur at around 12:11 a.m. EDT.
Weather permitting, this lunar eclipse will be visible across nearly the entire Western Hemisphere, including almost all of Canada, according to Timeanddate.com. The best views will be in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, where the moon will be already above the horizon by the time the eclipse is set to begin.
However, in parts of northwest B.C., Yukon and the Northwest Territories, only a partial lunar eclipse will be visible, as the moon will be below the horizon during the totality. In northern N.W.T. and Nunavut, the eclipse will not be visible at all.
Observers won’t need to invest in any special equipment or travel to an area without any light pollution to see this eclipse, as lunar eclipses are one of the most easily observable astronomical phenomena, according to the Canadian Space Agency. However, binoculars or a small telescope can help you see some of the finer details on the surface of the moon.
Unlike a looking solar eclipse, eye protection is not necessary when watching a lunar eclipse. You can safely look directly at the moon with the naked eye.
“Dress warmly and get fully dark-adapted so you can enjoy the experience and plan to be out there for up to an hour,” Delaney recommends.
If it’s too cloudy to see the moon where you live, there will be several online livestreams of the lunar eclipse on Sunday.
NASA will be broadcasting the event live on YouTube starting at 9:32 p.m. EDT. The agency will also be holding a Q&A to discuss the science behind eclipse as well as NASA’s future plans for a manned moon mission with the Artemis program.
In Los Angeles, the historic Griffith Observatory will also be livestreaming the eclipse starting at 10:35 p.m. EDT and will have a timelapse video of the event posted to its YouTube channel the following day.
The Virtual Telescope Project will have a livestream featuring different views of the eclipse around the world, including from Montreal, Ottawa and Saint John, N.B.
SUPER AND LONG
The lunar eclipse will also coincide with a supermoon, which tend to be around 15 per cent brighter and seven per cent bigger than an average full moon.
NASA says this is because the moon orbits around the Earth in an ellipse or oval shape rather than a perfect circle. A supermoon can be seen when the moon reaches its closest point to the Earth.
“The moon is as close to the Earth as it can be in its orbit, and when that coincides with the full moon, the apparent size of the moon is a little larger, and therefore, the apparent brightness of the moon is a little higher,” Delaney said.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac says this will be the first of four supermoons in 2022, with ones also expected to occur in June, July and August.
This lunar eclipse will be rare, given its length. The totality of the eclipse will last around 85 minutes. According to The Weather Network, this will be the longest total eclipse visible from Canada since 2007.
The next lunar eclipse that will be visible in Canada will take place between Nov. 7 and 8 later this year.