This week, people across the world will be able to experience a total lunar eclipse, the first in nearly 2.5 years. The full Moon, crossing the shadow of Earth, will begin to shine a crimson color on Wednesday, May 26. The so-called Blood Moon will mainly be visible across the Pacific, but people across most of the Americas and up to India will be able to catch at least part of the spectacle.
This full Moon will be a Supermoon, meaning it will appear about 7 percent larger than usual as it is in its perigee, the closest part of its orbit around the Earth. The May full Moon is also referred to as the Flower Moon, so if you see anyone referring to it as the Super Flower Blood Moon, know that it’s just an amalgamation of all these event adjectives.
Those living in eastern Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and Hawaii will see the entire event, with totality just after moonrise. Southeast Asia, part of China, Japan, North and South Korea, most of the Western United States, Canada, Mexico, most of Central America, Ecuador, western Peru, southern Chile, and Argentina will also be able to see it, with totality near moonset.
The eclipse will take several hours, with the partiality (when the shadow first appears across the Moon) beginning at 9:44 am UTC (6:44 pm AEST/ 1:44 am PT) and totality (when the Moon is completely covered) starting at 11:11 am UTC ( 8:11 pm AEST/ 3:44 am PT). The peak of totality is 7 minutes later and after that, it will last for another 8 minutes before going back into a partial eclipse.
If you do not live somewhere where the total lunar eclipse will be visible, have no fear, you can watch it livestreamed here starting at 9:30 am UTC.
There will be three more eclipses in 2021: June 10 will see an annular solar eclipse, also known as a "ring of fire" eclipse. November will see a partial lunar eclipse and December a total lunar eclipse.
Why Are Lunar eclipses red?
Something that often puzzles people about lunar eclipses is how different they look from the regular lunar phases. During the monthly phases, it is the Moon that casts a shadow on itself. But in an eclipse, it’s the shadow of Earth that covers the Moon. And our planet’s shadow is not completely black.
Some of the light from the Sun filters through the atmosphere and creates a suffuse red hue into which the Moon moves. As the Sun is shadowed by the Earth, the redness becomes more apparent. The Moon appears red for the same reason the sky is red at dawn and at dusk, the atmosphere refracts longer wavelengths of light at a wider angle.
Video credit: Visualizations by Ernie Wright/ NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
Watching the Moon turning red is a beautiful moment but it is very difficult to say when exactly it happens during an eclipse because it depends on the nebulosity of the atmosphere at the terminator, the line between day and night.
The Moon will go through various shades during a total lunar eclipse, from gray to orange to red. Atmospheric conditions can affect how bright those colors are, for example, extra particles in the atmosphere due to volcanic eruptions or wildfires, two things 2021 has already had plenty of.