Total Supermoon Eclipse: How to Watch the Sunday Night Sky Show

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On the night of Sunday to Monday, half of the planet will be entitled to a total lunar eclipse. That’s the good news. The bad news is the predicted cloud cover for the DC area, which may make this a not-so-great event.

It has been almost a year to the day since the last total lunar eclipse occurred, and on Sunday night to Monday half the planet will be treated to a total lunar eclipse. That’s the good news. The bad news is the cloud cover forecast for the DC areawhich may make it a not-so-great event.

All is not lost if it is partly cloudy, as you can still see the eclipse through breaks in the clouds. In fact, the clouds can provide quite a dramatic view of the sky scene during the eclipse.

My best advice for everyone is to monitor the local weather forecast. Thunderstorms are a possibility and you don’t want to be outside if there is even a chance of lightning. Remember: listen to the roar, go inside. Take an eye exam of the sky during each phase of the eclipse to see what your cloud cover looks like. You might get lucky.

Here is a timeline of the eclipse by EarthSky:

  • The penumbral lunar eclipse begins at 9:32 p.m. EDT on May 15.
  • The partial eclipse begins at 10:27 p.m. EDT on May 15.
  • Totality begins (the moon engulfed in Earth’s shadow) begins at 11:29 p.m. EDT on May 15.
  • Totality ends at 12:53 a.m. EDT.
  • The partial eclipse ends at 5:55 a.m. 1:55 a.m. EDT.
  • The penumbral eclipse ends at 2:50 a.m. EDT.
  • The maximum eclipse is at 12:12 a.m. EDT.
  • Duration of the totality: Approximately 85 minutes.

If the Cloud Gods win, all is not lost. You can watch the eclipse online.

This diagram shows the key phases of the eclipse from May 15 to 16 as the moon passes through Earth’s shadow. Hours are EDT. (Courtesy of Gregg Dinderman/Sky & Telescope. Source: USNO)

May full moon is called flower because of all the flowers that bloom in May. This Full Flower Moon is also a Super Moon, as it occurs almost when it is closest to Earth for the month. For experienced moon watchers, the full bloom super moon will appear a bit larger and brighter than other full moons.

You will also see the phrase “Moon of blood” used to describe this eclipse, because it has fashionable in recent years.

It will be interesting to see if the eruption of the Tonga volcano in January will make the totality phase darker than usual. I witnessed the December 1992 total lunar eclipse in Guam, and it was very difficult to see the Earth’s shadow during totality, even with a telescope. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 put a lot of volcanic debris and aerosols into the earth’s atmosphere so that the sun’s rays were greatly attenuated as they passed. This drastically reduced the brightness of the whole, the Earth’s shadow was almost a very dark brown-black color.

If you want to try to see the eclipse, it’s very easy to do, the cloud cover does not resist. Even in cities, the moon and eclipse phases will be visible, although it is highly recommended to be away from the glare of bright lights. At totality, the moon will be close to the Milky Way, which should become visible from dark sky sights, providing a beautiful and dramatic view of the sky.

For the DC area, the moon will be in the southeast sky, well above the horizon, but you want to make sure you’re free of trees and buildings that might block your view.

Binoculars will help tremendously and are highly recommended – really mandatory – to try and see any shadows on the moon during the penumbral eclipse phases; or if it is a dark phase of totality. They will greatly improve your view of the other phases of the eclipse.

It is also recommended to use an adjustable sun lounger to stay comfortable during the long eclipse. Lie back and relax to see this spectacular spectacle from the sky.

Any camera will be easily capture the different phases of the eclipse. This includes smartphones and even tablets with cameras.

Conclusion: Watch the weather, but visually check for cloud breaks. You can also watch the eclipse online, while you perform your visual checks. Try to get pictures, but just be sure to enjoy the sky show.

If you want more space-related activities this weekend, DC-area students compete in the World National Finals biggest student rocketry competition to be held on Saturday, with Sunday as an alternate weather date.

Save this date

Speaking of rockets, “NASA and Boeing are targeting the launch of the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 6:54 p.m. EDT Thursday from Space Launch Complex-41 on the station of the Cape Canaveral Space Force in Florida.

This is the second uncrewed flight test of the Starliner spacecraft for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program,” as explained in an email from NASA. You can register as a virtual guest to receive the latest information on the mission.

Follow Greg Redfern daily blog to follow the news of astronomy and space exploration. You can email him at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter.

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