A total lunar eclipse is coming up tonight (Sunday, May 15), and if the weather cooperates Alabama will get to watch it.
During the eclipse the moon will move into the shadow of the Earth and appear reddish. It’s sometimes referred to as a “blood moon.” And because of its proximity to Earth right now, it is considered a super moon by certain measures.
The last total lunar eclipse was in May of 2021, thus this one will be the longest at 5 hours and 19 minutes.
Full totality, or when the moon is submerged in the darkest region of the Earth’s shadow (or umbra), will last 1 hour and 25 minutes.
Here’s the timeframe from NASA:
8:32 p.m. CDT: Penumbral eclipse begins. The moon enters the Earth’s penumbra, the outer half of the shadow. The moon begins to wane, but the effect is fairly mild.
9:27 p.m. CDT: Partial eclipse begins. The moon begins to enter Earth’s umbra. As the moon advances into the umbra, it looks like a bite is being taken out of it. The section of the moon inside the umbra will appear quite black.
10:29 p.m. Start of totality, Central Daylight Time. The entire moon is currently in the Earth’s umbra. The moon will turn a coppery-red.
11:53 p.m. CDT: Totality ends. Redness on the moon decreases as it leaves Earth’s umbra. It will appear as though the moon is being devoured from the dark side.
12:55 a.m. CDT Sunday: Partial eclipse ends. The whole moon is in Earth’s penumbra, though the dimming is slight.
1:50 a.m. CDT: Eclipse ends.
This full moon is also called a super moon by certain criteria. EarthSky.org researchers have calculated that this month’s super moon will occur just 1.5 days before the moon is at its closest point to Earth. Some people may see a slightly enlarged moon as a result.
According to NASA, the eclipse will be visible across the whole eastern portion of the United States.
Seeing the eclipse with the naked eye is possible, but using binoculars or a telescope will enhance your experience. Getting away from bright lights will also help.
Whether or not the weather holds up is a major unknown. There is a risk for isolated severe storms for the northern section of the state today — and tonight.
Here’s the sky cover forecast from the National Weather Service for 10 p.m. today, at the hour that full totality begins:
It’s possible that tonight’s total lunar eclipse won’t be visible due to cloud cover. Sunday evening at 10 o’clock, the expected cloudiness is as follows. Indicated by the numbers is the potential cloud cover at that time.
Those who are unable to see the eclipse in person due to clouds can watch it online via NASA’s livestreams.
Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center will supply one of them:
Exactly What Causes the Moon to Turn Crimson?
Rayleigh scattering, as explained by NASA, is what gives the sky its blue colour. Because of their unique wavelengths and frequencies, different hues of light have distinct physical characteristics as they move across space.
When a lunar eclipse occurs, the only way sunlight can reach the moon is through Earth’s atmosphere, turning the moon a blood red colour. In the event of a lunar eclipse, the moon will seem redder if there is more dust or clouds in the atmosphere. According to NASA, it looks like “every dawn and sunset in the world is projected onto the moon.”