If you enjoy stargazing, it’s time to cross your fingers and hope for clear skies overnight on Sunday, May 15.
If the skies are clear in your local area, you’ll be able to see the Super Blood Moon, or a total lunar eclipse.
If you’re in Eastern or Central time zones in the U.S., you’ll be able to watch the entire lunar eclipse. Plus, because this is a supermoon, it will appear about 7 percent larger than any other month’s full moon, and it will be approximately 15 percent brighter than other full moons.
May’s Full Moon
May’s full moon is called the Flower Moon because it coincides with the time flowers are blooming across North America, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. May’s full Flower Moon will reach peak illumination at 12:15 a.m. Eastern, on Monday, May 16.
The first part of what makes May’s full moon special is that it will be a supermoon.
The moon’s orbit around Earth isn’t circular, it’s elliptical. Although the distance between the moon and Earth varies throughout the month and even the year, the average distance is approximately 238,855, according to NASA.
Since the moon has an elliptical orbit, there are times when it is closer to Earth than others. The point in the moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth is called the perigee. When the moon is full and it reaches that point, it’s called a supermoon.
There is no official definition stipulating how close the moon must be to Earth to be considered a supermoon. Astrologer Richard Nolle first used the term “supermoon” in 1979, and in his definition, Nolle explained that a full moon or new moon is a supermoon when it’s within 90 percent of its closest point to Earth, according to EarthSky.
While the average distance from Earth to the moon is 238,855 miles, on May 16, however, the moon will be 225,015 miles from Earth, making it a supermoon, EarthSky explains.
The Super Blood Moon’s Color
The term blood moon isn’t scientific. Instead, it describes the moon’s reddish-orange appearance during a total lunar eclipse.
“During the eclipse, the full moon goes into the dark inner shadow of Earth,” Michael Shanahan, planetarium director at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, told the Today show. “However, while our atmosphere blocks the shorter wavelengths such as blue light, it does allow the longer wavelengths of red light to pass through our atmosphere and continue on to the moon. So, the moon often turns an eerie copper color during these total lunar eclipses.”
Interestingly, the phenomenon when violet colors are filtered out of the visible spectrum is known as Rayleigh scattering. This phenomenon explains why sunrises and sunsets are known for reddish and orange colors.
How To View The Super Blood Moon
The Super Blood Moon’s timing will be nearly ideal for anyone in Eastern or Central time zones. That’s because the lunar eclipse will begin at 10:28 p.m. Eastern and 9:28 p.m. Central, on Sunday, May 15. If you’re in those areas, you’ll even be able to watch the entire eclipse, according to Space.com.
On the other hand, if you’re farther west, you still will be able to see the total phase of the eclipse. “For observers along the Pacific coast of Oregon, the moon will become totally eclipsed near or just after moonrise, transforming the moon into a ruddy, ghostly orb,” Space.com continues.
You can find a timetable for observers in the U.S. that shows phases of the lunar eclipse in local time here.
“Totality will last quite a bit longer than average: 1 hour and 25 minutes,” Space.com notes. “The moon will pass south of the center of the Earth’s shadow, so during the total phase, the lower part of the moon will appear brightest while its upper portion should appear noticeably darker and more subdued.”
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