Did you know? Lunar Eclipses

Lunar eclipses can only occur during a full moon. However, there isn’t a lunar eclipse every full moon of the month because the Moon’s orbit is tipped about five degrees to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The Moon is either below or above the plane of the Earth’s orbit most of the time. The photograph below is as the Moon becomes totally eclipsed the colour changes to a reddish hue, photograph Toner Stevenson, 26 May 2021.

A lunar eclipse can be total, when the shadow of the Earth fully covers the Moon; partial, when the Earth’s shadow covers just a portion of the Moon; or penumbral, when the Earth’s lighter outer shadow (penumbra) covers the Moon.

The lunar eclipse of 16th July 2000 lasted for 106 minutes and 25 seconds, the longest duration since the 13th August 1859. Totality of this length will not happen again until the 19th August 4753.

The Danjon Scale is used to grade the darkness of a total lunar eclipse. It is done in points from 0, where the Moon looks almost invisible, to 4 where a bright yellowish orange colour can be seen.

Unlike a solar eclipse which can only be seen from specific locations around the world, a lunar eclipse can be viewed from any place on the night side of the Earth.

In ancient times lunar eclipses were regarded with fear and awe. The Incas believed lunar eclipses occurred when a jaguar ate the Moon. The Mesopotamians believed a lunar eclipse was when the Moon was being attacked by seven demons, and the Chinese would ring bells to prevent a dragon or other wild animal from biting the Moon.

Want to see a lunar eclipse for yourself? . . . .

The next total lunar eclipse visible from Australia will occur in the evening of 8th November 2022 beginning around 7:30 p.m. Get yourself a clear view of the Moon and enjoy this wonderful sight!

Below: Moon emerges from eclipse through the dome at Sydney Observatory, 26 May 2021, photograph Toner Stevenson.