Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Lunar Eclipse on 16 June

By David Reneke

We’re going to be treated to a total lunar eclipse just before sunrise on Thursday 16 June with the Moon expected to take on an eerie reddish glow.

The eclipse will be visible over more than half the globe, throughout most of South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, the Indian subcontinent and Australia. It’s expected to be one of the darkest eclipses on record, due to an unusually straight alignment between Sun, Moon and Earth. In fact, predictions are the Moon will turn a blood red colour at totality!

The eclipsed Moon can often appear a coppery colour at totality due to sunlight being refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere, but airborne ash from the recent eruptions of volcanoes in Iceland and existing airborne pollution will add to the darkening effect.

We’ll get a good view across Australia. The Moon will start to move into the Earth’s core shadow at 4.23am Eastern Standard Time and totality begins an hour later, at 5.22am with the Moon fully immersed in the Earth’s shadow. This is when you get the spectacular reddish colour so put your camera onto a tripod and take a photo.

As the eclipse progresses, the Moon’s disc will take on an eerie coppery red glow. This is because sunlight falling on the Moon has been filtered through the Earth’s atmosphere. The exact appearance depends on how much dust and clouds are present in the upper atmosphere at the time.

Astronauts on the Moon would actually see the Earth eclipsing the Sun! They would see a bright red ring around the Earth as they watched all the sunrises and sunsets happening simultaneously around the world.

Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are completely safe to watch. You don’t need any kind of protective filters. You can watch the lunar eclipse with nothing more than your own two eyes. An ordinary pair of binoculars will help magnify the view and will make the red coloration brighter and easier to see.

Why not make a morning of it, grab the family and friends and get out under the stars. You won’t be sorry!

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