Just as the sun sets over North America on Sunday night, the sun, Earth, and moon will begin to align to create a total lunar eclipse.
People may have to stay up later than usual to get a chance to see Sunday night’s eclipse as it unfolds through the first half of the night. However, losing some sleep will be worth it, as the eclipse could be the main astronomical event of 2022.
This weekend’s event will be the first total lunar eclipse visible from the entire contiguous US since January 21, 2019. There was a total lunar eclipse visible from the country on May 26, 2021, but only could be seen from western US Alaska and Hawaii.
There was also an impressive partial lunar eclipse over the Americas on November 19, 2021, when 97% of the moon went dark, but it ultimately fell short of being considered a total eclipse.
A total lunar eclipse is sometimes called a “blood moon” because the moon often appears to turn dark red at the height of the eclipse.
The eerie color change is not due to a transformation of the moon during the astronomical alignment, but rather a change in the light reflecting off the moon.
“During a lunar eclipse, the moon turns red because the only sunlight that reaches the moon passes through Earth’s atmosphere,” NASA explained.
“The more dust or clouds there are in Earth’s atmosphere during the eclipse, the redder the Moon will appear,” NASA added. This dust could come from a variety of sources, such as wildfires or volcanic eruptions.
The full eclipse will last more than five hours, beginning at 9:32 p.m. EDT on Sunday, May 15, and lasting until 2:50 a.m. EDT on Monday, May 16.
However, the total phase of the eclipse, when the moon changes color, will last only about an hour and a half, starting at 11:29 p.m. EDT and ending at 12:53 a.m. EDT. The middle of the eclipse will be the best time to look at the moon and it will occur at 12:11 a.m. EDT.
The eclipse will begin before the moon rises over the West Coast, but luckily, the moon will rise above the horizon just in time for residents across the region to see it turn red.
People in most of Canada, Central America, South America, Western Europe, and West Africa will also be able to see the lunar eclipse.
No special equipment is needed to witness the eclipse, but cloudless conditions are a must.
Clouds will be a concern for viewers in most of the eastern US and in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. The exception will be the southeastern US, where cloudless conditions should allow for excellent views of the Blood Moon.
The chances of seeing the eclipse are much higher in the central and western US with mostly or partly clear conditions in the forecast for Sunday night. A similar outlook is forecast for the Canadian prairies.
Meanwhile, clouds could spoil the show in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, including the Portland, Oregon and Seattle metropolitan areas, as well as Vancouver, British Columbia.
Unlike a total solar eclipse, when you need perfect weather during those fleeting few minutes when the moon completely blocks out the sun, the total phase of a lunar eclipse lasts more than an hour as the moon slowly passes through the shadow of the earth.
This means that all it takes is a single break in the clouds to catch a glimpse of Sunday night’s event.
May’s full moon is often nicknamed the “Flower Moon” because of the abundance of flowers throughout the month, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Some people are combining nicknames, calling this month’s full moon the “Flower Blood Moon.”
This weekend’s highly anticipated event will be the first of two opportunities to view a total lunar eclipse from the US this year.
Another blood moon is scheduled to rise over most of North America once again on November 8, 2022. However, the moon will set in the eastern US and Atlantic Canada just as the total phase of the eclipse begins. This means that people from Miami to Manhattan will only see a brief part of the encore eclipse.
After November, another total lunar eclipse won’t be visible anywhere in the world until March 13, 2025.
While June, July, and August won’t feature lunar eclipses, each month will offer the chance to see a supermoon.