The moon will loom large and turn a coppery red colour on Sunday night, as its closest approach to Earth coincides with a total lunar eclipse. This rare arrangement of Earth, moon and sun has not occurred since 1982, and will not be repeated until 2033 – so well worth setting the alarm to get up and take a look, and perhaps a few photographs.
Because the moon follows an elliptical orbit, its average distance from Earth changes – from as far away as 252,000 miles to as near as 226,000 miles. On Sunday evening, the moon will be at its closest, making it appear as a SUPER MOON, 14% larger in the sky than an average full moon.
This time, the moon’s closest approach (or PERIGREE), will coincide with a LUNAR ECLIPSE in the early hours of Monday morning over Europe, when the Earth moves in front of the sun and casts a shadow over the whole of the moon. The moon will not be blotted out, but will instead turn a dark rusty red. Though no sunlight will fall directly on the moon, it’s surface will be illuminated by light rays that refract through Earth’s atmosphere. Red light will bend around the Earth and light up the moon, but blue light will be scattered and lost in the atmosphere.
Some people believe that a ‘blood moon’ like this is the sign of impending apocalypse, bringing strange tidal activity, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. We will just have to wait and see!
Weather permitting, the large red moon will be visible across the whole of Britain from 1.10 am on Monday morning. At that moment, the Earth’s shadow will start to creep across the face of the full moon, causing it to dim and take on a yellowish hue. At 3.10 am, the moon will be fully in Earth’s shadow, and for an hour and twelve minutes will turn a dark, rusty red (or grey depending on surface conditions). The whole spectacle will be over by 6.25 am.
I am thinking about popping up to my local Dark Sky Reserve on Exmoor to get the best view – just going to need to pray for a cloudless night!
There are plenty of resources on You Tube that will help to explain this for students, along with some weird ‘end of the world’ doom and gloom predictions! One concise 2 minute visual explanation can be found at:
For further text information, try: