It’s big. It’s red. And it’s coming to a night sky near you.
Tonight Australians will get the chance to witness a total lunar eclipse that will turn the full moon a deep red colour for an hour.
The extraordinary astronomical event has occurred only a handful of times over the past 500 hundred years.
West Australians will see the total eclipse but will miss the passage of the earth’s shadow across the face of the moon because the eclipse begins before the moon rises over WA.
Those on the east coast will have the best views, being able to watch the moon’s entire transformation throughout the eclipse.
Astronomer Alan Duffy of Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology said a lunar eclipse occurs when the earth gets between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow across the moon that causes it to turn a blood red colour.
The light reflected is a reddish colour from all the sunsets and sunrises of the Earth shining onto the moon.
“The eclipse begins with a shadow slowly appearing on the surface of the moon. Over the next hour more of the moon will be covered until eventually it lies directly behind the Earth away from the Sun,” Dr Duffy said.
“At this point the moon should be blacked-out but it will actually appear blood red. This colour is from all the sunrises and sunsets of Earth shining onto the moon.
“The phase of totality with a red moon lasts for an hour, before the Moon begins to leave the umbra and the series of events reverses over the course of the final hour.”
Dr Duffy said this eclipse will be much more spectacular than one that was visible in Australia in April.
“This one will be the real McCoy,” he told AAP.
“Australia is the perfect place to see the long lunar eclipse experience, weather permitting, and we will see that distinctive blood red colour.”
Lunar eclipses occur at least twice a year, but lunar eclipse lovers can expect seven to occur in 2038.
The event will begin at 8:15pm AEDT, with the visible effects lasting for three hours and 20 minutes.
The moon will appear completely red during the phase of the total eclipse between 9:25pm and 10.25pm AEDT.
Eclipse times across Australia
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