Stargazers and night owls, we’ve got blooming good news for you – it’s almost time for the Super Flower Blood Moon.
A lunar eclipse happens when the moon’s orbit moves in front of the Earth’s shadow, preventing the sun’s light from reaching it.
Known as a Blood Moon, this lunar eclipse will see the full Flower Moon temporarily turn red overnight.
The full moon is at its perigee (the closest approach to Earth of the month, in its orbit), so expect to see a slightly larger moon experience the Super Flower Blood Moon eclipse.
The moon has no light source of its own and simply reflects the light of the sun, so when Earth blocks this out, it won’t shine.
Here’s how to catch a glimpse of the eerie moon.
Why does the moon turn red?
Although no sunlight is falling directly on the moon, light from the Earth’s sunrises and sunsets does illuminate it, giving it its ‘blood’ red appearance.
The hue and depth of the red colour is dependent on a number of factors, like the amount of dust in the atmosphere at the time of the eclipse.
‘Sunlight bends and scatters as it passes through Earth’s atmosphere. In air, colors at the blue and violet end of the rainbow scatter more widely than colors like red and orange,’ explains Nasa.
‘Widely scattered blue light tints the sky when the sun is overhead on clear days. Redder light travels a straighter path through the air; we only see it scattered throughout the sky around sunrise and sunset, when sunlight has traveled through a thick slice of Earth’s atmosphere before reaching our eyes.
‘During a lunar eclipse, some of this heavily filtered morning and evening light makes it all the way through Earth’s atmosphere and eventually reaches the lunar surface.
‘The eclipsed Moon is dimly illuminated by red-orange light left over from all of the sunsets and sunrises occurring around the world at that time. The more dust or clouds in Earth’s atmosphere during the eclipse, the redder the Moon will appear.’
Overall, it’ll make for an impressive spectacle if you’re able to get outside and witness it.
When will the UK see the Blood Moon lunar eclipse?
Depending on where you are in the world, the total lunar eclipse can be seen starting today (Sunday, May 15) for those in North, Central, and South America.
The Blood Moon will be visible for those in the UK in the early hours of Monday, May 16.
It’s estimated the partial eclipse will start at 2.28am BST.
During this phase, the Moon travels through the Earth’s full ‘umbral’ shadow.
According to Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG), on this occasion, only a small section of the Moon will be covered by the umbra at maximum eclipse.
How to watch the Blood Moon lunar eclipse in the UK
We may not get to see all of the eclipse, but at least it won’t be a tricky to spot what we can see.
The moon is the largest and brightest object in the sky. To see it, just head outside and start looking upward.
The overall duration of this entire lunar eclipse is set to be five hours and 19 minutes.
Of course, if you don’t fancy leaving the warmth of the duvet, you can just grab your phone and tune in to one of the many livestreams of the event happening online.
You can simply bookmark this article and watch Nasa’s own live stream of the Blood Moon above.
How to get the best picture of the Blood Moon lunar eclipse
David Noton, an acclaimed landscape photographer and a brand ambassador for Canon, has some great tips for anyone wanting to try and capture a shot of the Blood Moon.
‘The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season,’ Norton said.
‘That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky.’
Here are his recommendations for getting a great shot.
Firstly, invest in a lens with optical zoom.
‘Essentially, I’ll have two choices, shooting wide to capture the moon in the context of the landscape, or framing the moon tight in the frame, so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface.
‘The latter is a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS R with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens, and also the ubiquitous 24-70mm f2.8 L III for the wider shot.’
Next: use a tripod to capture the intimate details.
‘As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly.
‘As you probably be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.’
Thirdly, integrate the moon into your landscape.
‘Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal.
Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source.
‘The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as Canon’s EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon’s EOS 5D Mark IV and Canon’s recently launched, EOS R now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.’
And finally, master the shutter speed for your subject.
‘The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability.
‘By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.
On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon with a shutter speed fast enough to stop the motion from blurring. How fast will depend on your focal length, but if you’re filling the frame with the moon using a long lens you’re going to need a shutter speed of about 1/250th sec.’
When is the next Blood Moon?
This Blood Moon is actually the first of two set to take place in 2022.
The next Blood Moon will happen on November 8, 2022.
It will be visible, at least partly, from the UK as well as in Asia, Australia, North America and most of South America.