Millions of people around the world have admired in the past few hours one of the most fascinating astronomical phenomena: atotal lunar eclipse. The “highlight” of the event, during which our satellite takes on its typical color orange/reddish (hence the name Blood Moon, or Blood Moon) has been seen in parts of the Americas, Antarctica, Europe, Africa and the eastern Pacific. The eclipse of half light (it is the edge of the earth’s shadow that affects the satellite) was instead admired in New Zealand, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. To accompany the article, the most beautiful images from Italy and the world (sliding gallery above).
Scientist Fred Espenak also defined the May Full Moon as “Superluna“, That is a full Moon at the perigee (the closest point to the Earth along the orbit): this therefore made it a ‘Blood Supermoon eclipseappeared slightly larger than the norm.
The phenomenon was visible for a short time also in Italyonly for the first part: the peak was at dawn, when the Moon in our country fell below the horizon (with difficult observation also due to the first light of dawn).
The partial phase started at 02:28 UTC (22:28 EDT on May 15, 04:28 Italian time on May 16). The maximum was reached at 06:11 Italian time (04:11 UTC). The event ended at 07:55 Italian time (05:55 UTC). The penumbral eclipse started about an hour earlier and ended about an hour after the partial phase.
What is a total lunar eclipse
When a total lunar eclipse occurs, our satellite passes into the shadow of the Earth. The light of our planet is refracted around the edges of the atmosphere and falls, filtered, on the surface of the Moon. That’s where the red hue comes from. Put simply, one can imagine our planet’s sunsets and sunrises reflecting off the surface of the Moon, as the sky appears redder during this phase of the day. It is another way to explain why that color is observed, which led to it being called Blood Moon.
Penumbral eclipses are a bit more complicated to see: they occur when the Moon only passes within the penumbra of our planet. Sometimes it is very difficult to see the darkening of the Moon: depending on the degree of light pollution, the observer could be more or less lucky. The Moon does not turn red during a penumbral eclipse – it should appear a little darker than usual.
Because the Moon is tinged with red
During totality, but also in an advanced partial phase, the Moon acquires the characteristic reddish color (hence the name Luna di Sangue, or Blood Moon) due to the earth’s atmosphere: the latter tends to diffuse blue light, and is one of the reasons why the sky appears blue from the ground. As the Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon, the light from the Sun passes through the Earth’s atmosphere and the blue light is scattered. Furthermore, the light is refracted or bent and focused on the Moon. In this sense, the earth’s air is like a giant lens. The light hits the Moon and is reflected on us, and so we see the Moon turn blood red. From the point of view of a lunar observer, the Earth would eclipse the Sun and be surrounded by a red ring of refracted sunlight.
The Superluna of Flowers
During the eclipse, our satellite found itself near the minimum distance from Earth (the perigee) along its orbit, a condition popularly referred to as “Superluna“: The star therefore appeared slightly larger than the average, even if it is generally difficult to realize it.
Traditionally, the full moon of May is called “Moon of Flowers“: The Native Americans chose this name to emphasize the link with nature, which is particularly luxuriant in this month.
When is the next lunar eclipse
The next and last lunar eclipse of the year will take place on November 8, 2022: this total lunar eclipse will be visible at least in part from Asia, Australia, North America, parts of northern and eastern Europe, the Arctic and from most of South America.
Then, in 2023, there will be two lunar eclipses: on May 5-6, a penumbral lunar eclipse will be visible, at least in part, from southern and eastern Europe, from Antarctica, from most of Asia, from Australia, Africa, as well as the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans. The second and final partial lunar eclipse of 2023 will occur on October 28-29, visible at least in part from Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, North America, northern and eastern South America, the Arctic, Antarctica and the Pacific oceans , Atlantic and Indian.
After a penumbral eclipse on March 25, 2024 and a partial eclipse on September 18, 2024, the next total eclipse will occur on March 14, 2025. The total phase will be visible in parts of Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Indian Ocean, with the partial phase visible in parts of Africa, Europe, South America and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
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