The Blood Moon Rises

Dr Kathryn Harriss, Research Associate at SPS, tells us more about tonight's Blood Moon

Beacon Observatory

Tonight the longest Lunar Eclipse of the 21st Century will occur being visible for 1 hour and 43 minutes.

As the moon passes through the shadow cast by the Earth, it is not completely dark, as light from the sun is refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere. The shorter wavelengths of light are mostly scattered by the atmosphere (giving us the blue sky), where the longer wavelength is refracted around the Earth. It is this wavelength that is reflected from the Moon, giving us the blood red colour associated with lunar eclipses, and also sunsets and sun rises.

This will be the longest of this century, as the Moon, Sun and Earth are aligned, the Moon will pass through the shadow’s widest point. Previous and future lunar eclipses, will only pass through part of the Earths shadow as a result of the lunar orbit.

From 8:50pm this evening, if it is clear, look to the South East; it is perfectly safe to look at a Lunar eclipse with the naked eye, binoculars or telescopes, unlike a solar eclipse which you should never look at directly. The blood moon will be visible until around 22:13.

By the time moonrise occurs in the UK, the moon will already be within the Earth’s shadow and so from moon rise onwards, we shall be treated to a spectacular blood red moon.

Similar to the Earth’s surface during a solar eclipse, during a lunar eclipse the surface temperature of the Moon will drop as it passes into shadow. This can cause lunar rocks to crack, releasing gases and debris which is interesting for researchers around the world.

Here at the School of Physical Sciences, our Astronomy team will be endeavouring to fight the clouds to get some great images of the lunar eclipse using the Beacon Observatory. If successful, the images will be posted on our Facebook page.

If you are successful in getting any images of the lunar eclipse, please share it on our Twitter page @UniKentSPS.