Sunday 27 September 2015

Lunar eclipse occurs

Astronomers are gearing up to spot a rare
phenomenon, as a lunar eclipse coincides with a
so-called "supermoon".
A supermoon occurs when the Moon is in the
closest part of its orbit to Earth, meaning it appears
larger in the sky.

The eclipse - expected to make the Moon appear
red in colour - will be visible in North America,
South America, West Africa and western Europe.

Nasa claims a supermoon last coincided with a
lunar eclipse in 1982 and is not expected to again
until 2033.

But the definition of a supermoon is debated among

Skywatchers in the western half of North America,
the rest of Europe and Africa, the Middle East and
South Asia will see a partial eclipse.
From the UK, observers will see the Moon pass
through the Earth's shadow in the early hours of
Monday morning.

In North and South America the
eclipse will be seen on Sunday evening.

Eclipse facts
The supermoon, where Earth's satellite is near
its minimum distance from our planet, means
that the Moon will appear 7-8% larger in the

The moon may look rust-coloured during a
total lunar eclipse - giving rise to its nickname
Blood Moon. This is because the Earth's
atmosphere scatters blue light more strongly
than red light, and it is this red light that
reaches the lunar surface
During the eclipse, the Moon lies in front of the
stars of the constellation Pisces

Eclipse contact points  Time (UTC).            

P1                                    00:11:47           
U1.                                  01:07:11.           
U2.                                 02:11:10.
Greatest                       02:47:07  
U3.                                  03:23:05
U4.                                   04:27:03
P4                                   05:22:27

In a total lunar eclipse, the Earth, Sun and Moon are
almost exactly in line and the Moon is on the
opposite side of the Earth from the Sun.

As the full Moon moves into our planet's shadow, it
dims dramatically but usually remains visible, lit by
sunlight that passes through the Earth's

As this light travels through our planet's gaseous
envelope, the green to violet portions get filtered out
more than the red portion, with the result that light
reaching the lunar surface is predominantly red in

Observers on Earth may see a Moon that is brick-
coloured, rusty, blood red or sometimes dark grey,
depending on terrestrial conditions.

Dr Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the
UK's Royal Astronomical Society, told BBC News
that the eclipse is an "incredibly beautiful event".

A supermoon occurs when a full or new moon
coincides with a Moon that is nearing its minimum
distance (perigee) to Earth.

The Moon takes an elliptical orbit around Earth,
which means that its average distance changes
from as far as 405,000km (its apogee) to as close
as 363,000km at the perigee.

The coincidence between a supermoon and an
eclipse means that Earth's lone companion is
expected to look 7-8% bigger. But Dr Massey
added: "The definition of 'supermoon' is slightly

"Is a supermoon taking place at the perigee, the
day before, the day after? Does a supermoon have
to be a particularly close perigee, or can it be a bit
further out? It's not very well defined."

He said a supermoon was to some extent a
moveable feast compared with an eclipse, where
the timing can be measured precisely.

As a result, Dr Massey explained, claims of the
extreme rarity of a supermoon coinciding with an
eclipse were overstated.

The supermoon should also not be confused with
the Moon Illusion, which causes the Moon to
appear larger near the horizon than it does higher
up in the sky.

The eclipse will begin at 00:11 GMT, when the
Moon enters the lightest part of the Earth's shadow,
known as the penumbra, and adopts a yellowish
colour. At 02:11 GMT the Moon completely enters
the umbra - the inner dark corpus of our planet's

The point of greatest eclipse occurs at 02:47 GMT,
when the Moon is closest to the centre of the
umbra. The show will be over by 05:22 GMT on

The Royal Astronomical Society says that unlike the
solar equivalent, a total lunar eclipse event is safe
to watch and needs no special equipment.

Will you be watching the supermoon eclipse on

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