A blood moon is to grace the skies above Australia tonight (8 November), with the Australian National University (ANU) warning that this will be people’s last chance to see the phenomenon until 2025.
Astrophysicist and Cosmologist at ANU’s College of Science, Brad Tucker said a blood moon, more commonly known as a total lunar eclipse, occurred when the sun, Earth and the moon align in such a way that the moon passes into the Earth’s shadow.
Dr Tucker said this shadow was what caused the moon’s surface to turn red.
“While the Earth casts a shadow into space, a little bit of sunlight skims through the Earth’s atmosphere and into space,” Dr Tucker said.
“Just as sunrise and sunset are an orange or reddish colour, so is this light that skims through the Earth’s atmosphere and out into space,” he said.
“When you look at the moon during the total lunar eclipse, you are seeing the sunrise and sunset of the Earth lighting up the moon.”
Dr Tucker said lunar eclipses only occurred during a full moon, although “we don’t always get a total lunar eclipse during every full moon cycle”.
“For the moon to move perfectly into Earth’s shadow, it needs to be aligned with the Earth,” the Astrophysicist said.
“Sometimes it just skims the shadow and we get a partial lunar eclipse.”
Dr Tucker said no special equipment was needed to view the blood moon, although a telescope or binoculars were recommended to get the best viewing experience.
He said the best times for people in the ACT, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania to see the blood moon was from 8:09pm until 11:49pm Tuesday night, with the total eclipse (when fully red) to last from 9:16pm to 10:41pm.
Viewers in Queensland can catch a glimpse of the eclipse from 7:09pm to 10:49pm, with the total eclipse to last from 8:16pm to 9:41pm.
Dr Tucker said South Australians would have their chance from 7:43pm to 11:19pm with the total eclipse to last from 8:46 to 10:11, while those in the Northern Territory should be able to see the phenomenon as early as 6:42pm (until 10:19pm), and the total eclipse from 7:46pm to 9:11pm.
He said Western Australians would have a shorter window, with the blood moon to begin at 6:43pm and end at 8:49pm, with the total eclipse from 6:43pm to 7:41pm.