If the night sky is clear, venture outdoors and look up May 15-16, to see the Flower Moon will be totally eclipsed and turn red. The term “Flower Moon” relates to the blooms that appear in North America around that time. The Algonquin-speaking peoples in the northeastern part of the continent such as the Ojibwe (or Anishinaabe), called it something similar (Waawaaskone Giizis, which means “flower moon” according to the Ontario Native Literacy Coalition). The Cree called it Athikipisim, or Frog Moon, as May is when frogs tend to become active.
This particular supermoon will be 225,015 miles from earth and have a magnitude value of 1.4137. The full moons of June, July and August 2022 will actually be closer to the earth than the Flower Moon but will not be part of a lunar eclipse. This will be the longest prime-time total lunar eclipse on the west coast of the U.S. the 21st century. It’s expected to last 5 hours 18 minutes and 44 seconds, overall, but the duration of totality is 1:24.52.
- Duration:5 hours, 18 minutes, 44 seconds
- Duration of totality:1 hour, 24 minutes, 52 seconds
- Penumbral begins: May 15 at 8:32:05 pm
- Partial begins: May 15 at 9:27:52 pm
- Full begins: May 15 at 10:29:03 pm
- Maximum: May 15 at 11:11:28 pm
- Full ends: May 15 at 11:53:55 pm
- Partial ends: May 16 at 12:55:07 am
- Penumbral ends: May 16 at 1:50:49 am
- This day was cloudy 66% of the time (since 2000)
The moon does not have any light of its own—it shines because its surface reflects sunlight. During a total lunar eclipse, the earth moves between the sun and the moon and cuts off the moon’s light supply. When this happens, the surface of the moon takes on a reddish glow instead of going completely dark.
The red color of a totally eclipsed moon has prompted many people in recent years to refer to total lunar eclipses as blood moons.
The reason why the moon takes on a reddish color during totality is a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering. It is the same mechanism responsible for causing colorful sunrises and sunsets, and for the sky to look blue. The condition of the earth’s atmosphere, including the amount of pollution and dust from storms and volcanic eruptions, can affect the shade of red the moon takes on during the eclipse.
The earth’s atmosphere is primarily made up of gas molecules, with oxygen comprising about 21% and nitrogen about 78%. In addition, water molecules in the form of droplets, ice crystals, and vapor, and particles such as dust, pollutants, and ash can be found in the atmosphere, which is denser closer to the earth and thins out as the altitude increases.
A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, earth, and the moon are imperfectly aligned. When this happens, the earth blocks some of the sun’s light from directly reaching the moon’s surface and covers all or part of the moon with the outer part of its shadow, also known as the penumbra. Since the penumbra is much fainter than the dark core of the earth’s shadow, the umbra, a penumbral eclipse of the moon is often difficult to tell apart from a normal full moon.
Eclipses do not appear alone. Usually, there are two eclipses in a row. Other times, there are three during the same eclipse season. There was a partial solar eclipse April 30 but was visible in Antarctica and part of South America.
If skies don’t allow visibility where you live, you can find a link to NASA’s YouTube broadcast and watch the eclipse here, beginning at 8:32 CST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGIaEIICIcs
If you would like tips on how to photograph a lunar eclipse, check out this page on the Space.com site: https://www.space.com/how-to-photograph-the-moon-camera/.