The heavens are lining up and a stunning blood red moon will grace our sky tonight during a special total lunar eclipse.
If you’re anywhere in Australia, you’ll have a ringside seat — weather permitting — to the first total lunar eclipse since 2015. Those in the west will get the most mind-bending view if the sky is clear. For much of Australia, the eclipse also just happens to fall on the second full moon of the calendar month — otherwise known as a “Blue Moon”.
You may have read that this event is first time a “blue, blood moon” has happened in 150 years. While it’s a relatively rare combination, some parts of the world (including Australia) were lucky enough to see a total lunar eclipse on a blue moon just over 35 years ago.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth’s shadow moves across the Moon, blocking out the light from the Sun. The first of two total lunar eclipses this year will be visible right across Australia, Asia, the west coast of North America and the Pacific.
And it will be a beauty, says astronomer Tanya Hill of the Melbourne Planetarium. “This one is going almost right into the centre of the Earth’s shadow, so it will be lovely and long,” Dr Hill says.
This lunar eclipse occurs more than a day after the Moon has come closest to Earth in this orbit. That just makes it a ‘supermoon’ — the third in three months — based on a loose definition first coined by an astrologist.
But it’s hard to spot the difference between a supermoon, even at its closest, and a regular full moon, says Dr Hill.
“There’s a tiny difference, but it’s not something we can see or relate to in the night sky.
“The ‘supermoon’ is just a bit of a superbuzz,” she says.
WHEN TO WATCH THE ECLIPSE
Everyone in Australia will see the full eclipse, but people living in eastern states will get a different view to the west.
|Partial eclipse begins||Total eclipse begins||Maximum eclipse||Total eclipse ends||Partial eclipse ends|
|Adelaide||10:18 PM||11:22 PM||Midnight||12:38 AM (Feb 1)||1:41 AM (Feb 1)|
|Brisbane||9:48 PM||10:52 PM||11:30 PM||12:08 PM (Feb 1)||1:11 AM (Feb 1)|
|Canberra||10:48 PM||11:52 PM||12:30 AM (Feb 1)||1:08 AM (Feb 1)||2:11 AM (Feb 1)|
|Darwin||9:18 PM||10:22 PM||11:00 PM||11:38 PM||12:41 AM (Feb 1)|
|Hobart||10:48 PM||11:52 PM||12:30 AM (Feb 1)||1:08 AM (Feb 1)||2:11 AM (Feb 1)|
|Melbourne||10:48 PM||11:52 PM||12:30 AM (Feb 1)||1:08 AM (Feb 1)||2:11 AM (Feb 1)|
|Perth||7:48 PM||8:52 PM||9:30 PM||10:08 PM||11:11 PM|
|Sydney||10:48 PM||11:52 PM||12:30 AM (Feb 1)||1:08 AM (Feb 1)||2:11 AM (Feb 1)|
|Note: Full moon occurs at 12:26 AM AEDT Feb 1 (and equivalent time zones).|
If you miss this eclipse don’t despair. We will get another chance to see a total lunar eclipse in the early hours of July 28, 2018. People living in the eastern states will see the eclipse slip below the horizon during totality just before sunrise.
“It will look lovely and big low down on the horizon as it sets,” Dr Hill says.
“Whereas across in Perth or the rest of the country will actually get to see most of the eclipse playing out and the moon will be just re-emerging from the Earth’s shadow as the moon sets.”
There will be another total lunar eclipse on January 19, 2019. But this one won’t be visible from Australia so you’ll need to travel to North or South America to get the best view of that one.
“It’ll be daytime for us when it is playing out on the other side of the globe,” Dr Hill says.
Lunar eclipses are also paired with solar eclipses.
“You always get a solar and a lunar eclipse happening within a couple of weeks of each other,” she says.
There will be a partial solar eclipse over Tasmania, southern Victoria and South Australia on July 13.