Kolkata, India: The first lunar eclipse of 2021 will occur in the early morning hours of May 26 and will be an extraordinary event.
It will be a supermoon, a lunar eclipse, and a red blood moon all at once, this will be a particularly superlunar event.
Around the world, excitement is high, as people want to grab a shot of the beautiful cosmic event pending in the skies. A total lunar eclipse will occur on May 26 (or between May 25 and 27 depending on where you are in the world).
During a lunar eclipse, the moon passes under Earth’s shadow because our planet lies directly between the sun and our natural, rocky satellite.
The moon and sun are on opposite sides of the Earth during a total lunar eclipse, and the moon is entirely immersed in Earth’s shadow, whereas a partial lunar eclipse happens when only a portion of the moon passes into Earth’s shadow.
What is a super moon, exactly?
According to The Conversation, when a full or new moon happens at the same time as the Moon’s closest approach to the Earth, it is known as a supermoon.
The orbit of the Moon around the Earth isn’t exactly round. As the Moon orbits the Earth, its distance from the planet changes.
THE MOON APPEARS TO BE 12% BIGGER WHEN IT IS CLOSE TO EARTH COMPARED TO HOW IT LOOKS WHEN IT IS FURTHER AWAY (IMAGE COURTESY OF TOMRUEN/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC BY-SA)
The perigee, or closest point in the orbit, is around 28,000 miles closer to Earth than the apogee, or farthest point in the orbit. A supermoon is a full moon that occurs near the perigee.
So, what makes it so special? The Moon seems slightly larger and brighter than usual due to its close closeness, yet the difference between a supermoon and a regular moon is normally difficult to discern unless comparing two photographs side by side.
How does a lunar eclipse happen?
When the Earth’s shadow covers all or part of the Moon, it is called a lunar eclipse.
Because this can only happen during a full moon, it’s important to first grasp what constitutes a full moon.
Half of the Moon, like the Earth, is lighted by the sun at any given time. When the Moon and the Sun are on opposite sides of the Earth, it is called a full moon.
This allows you to see the complete lit-up side, which appears in the night sky as a spherical disc.
Every full moon would be a lunar eclipse if the Moon’s orbit was completely flat. However, in comparison to Earth’s orbit, the Moon’s orbit is inclined by around 5 degrees.
As a result, a full moon usually ends up a bit above or below the Earth’s shadow, as per The Conversation.
The Moon, however, is in the same horizontal plane as both the Earth and the Sun twice throughout each lunar orbit.
The Sun, the Earth, and the Moon will create a straight line if this corresponds to a full moon, and the Moon will pass through the Earth’s shadow. A total lunar eclipse occurs as a result of this.
You must be on the night side of the Earth while the Moon passes through the shadow to view a lunar eclipse.
On May 26, 2021, the greatest places to witness the eclipse will be in the center of the Pacific Ocean, Australia, Asia’s East Coast, and the Americas’ West Coast.
It will be visible only in the very early stages before the Moon sets on the eastern side of the United States.
Why does the moon appear to be red?
The Moon darkens when it is totally obscured by Earth’s shadow, but it does not become entirely black. Total lunar eclipses are frequently referred to as red or blood moons because they take on a reddish hue.
Sunlight encompasses all visible light hues. Blue wavelengths of light are more likely to be scattered by the gas particles that make up Earth’s atmosphere, while redder wavelengths pass through.
A BLOOD MOON GETS THE WARM HUE FROM THE EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE DURING A TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE (IMAGE COURTESY OF IRVIN CALICUT/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC BY-SA)
Rayleigh’s scattering is what causes the sky to be blue and sunrises and sunsets to be crimson, as per The Conversation.
Red light can penetrate through the Earth’s atmosphere and be refracted – or twisted – toward the Moon during a lunar eclipse, while blue light is filtered out. During an eclipse, this gives the moon a mild reddish color.
With inputs from The Conversation