Mother Nature is threatening to deprive East Coasters of a rare sight that hasn’t been seen in the US in decades.
On Sunday, May 15, the sun, earth, and moon will create a total lunar eclipse, creating a full flower “blood” red moon, though the weather could throw a wrench in nature’s plans.
During the eclipse, the moon will turn a deep shade of red before fading into near-complete darkness and then brightening back to its familiar shade approximately an hour later.
"A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, earth, and moon align so that the moon passes into Earth’s shadow,” according to NASA. "In a total lunar eclipse, the entire Moon falls within the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, called the umbra.
“When the moon is within the umbra, it will turn a reddish hue,” NASA noted. “Lunar eclipses are sometimes called ‘Blood Moons’ because of this phenomenon.”
It represents the first total lunar eclipse that would be fully visible in the US since January 2019, though that incident was only privy to the West Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii. There was a partial eclipse that was viewable for most Americans in November 2021, but it fell short of being a total eclipse.
Sunday’s total eclipse could be the last until approximately 2025, according to officials. Full or partial eclipses happen twice per year, but are only visible in certain parts of the world.
According to NASA, one doesn’t need any special equipment to observe the eclipse, though binoculars or a telescope will enhance the view of the red hue. A dark environment away from bright lights will make for the best viewing conditions.
NASA provided this timeline for how the eclipse will happen on Sunday, May 15 into Monday, May 16 on the East Coast:
- 9:32 p.m. (penumbral eclipse begins): The Moon enters the Earth’s penumbra, the outer part of the shadow. The Moon begins to dim, but the effect is quite subtle;
- 10:27 p.m. (partial eclipse begins): The Moon begins to enter Earth’s umbra and the partial eclipse begins. To the naked eye, as the Moon moves into the umbra, it looks like a bite is being taken out of the lunar disk. The part of the Moon inside the umbra will appear very dark;
- 11:29 p.m. (totality begins): The entire Moon is now in the Earth’s umbra. The Moon will turn a coppery-red.
- 12:53 a.m. on Monday, May 16 (totality ends): As the Moon exits Earth’s umbra, the red color fades. It will look as if a bite is being taken out of the opposite side of the lunar disk as before
- 1:55 a.m. (partial eclipse ends): The whole Moon is in Earth’s penumbra, but again, the dimming is subtle.
- 2:50 a.m. (penumbral eclipse ends): The eclipse is over.
“During a lunar eclipse, the moon turns red because the only sunlight reaching the moon passes through Earth's atmosphere," NASA explained.
"The more dust or clouds in Earth's atmosphere during the eclipse, the redder the moon will appear," NASA added. This dust could come from a variety of sources, such as wildfires or volcanic eruptions.”
Only weather could prove an issue for East Coasters looking forward to the phenomena, with the National Weather Service predicting a 40 percent chance of showers in the area and clouds potentially marring the experience.
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