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Tell your neighbours: there is a total Lunar Eclipse Wednesday 26 May, totality at 9:18pm

The LUNAR ECLIPSE of Wednesday May 26, 2021, 6.47 to 11.59 pm - a letter from Garry Dalrymple


To my dear Neighbours and fellow skywatchers

I hope that the following information will allow you to view, and to show your children and friends the LUNAR ECLIPSE which will be taking place on WEDNESDAY, as this is an noteworthy Astronomical event that is easily and safely observed even from your own backyard. You just have to put out some chairs, turn down the lights and the Sun, the Moon and the Earth will do the rest. PLEASE NOTE That THESE TIMES are for Sydney:

TIMES – The MOON

Moonrise – 4.46 pm (at sunset)

Moon at Zenith – 11.59 pm (straight up in the sky)

Moon set – 6.05 am (after dawn)

THE ECLIPSE

Begins 6.47 pm

Maximum 9.18 pm

Ends 11.49 pm


WHAT THIS MEANS – The Moon will rise in the East on the afternoon of the 26th like on any other Full Moon night, at much the same time as when you notice the Sun setting to the West. As twilight darkens the sky, and the stars come out (First Sirius, then Procyon, Alpha and Beta Centauri, Alpha and Beta Crucis etc.) the Moon might seem to fade a bit. It is entering the PARTIAL SHADOW of the Earth.

Later, it will appear like a piece of the Full Moon is missing, this ‘bite’ will increase until the whole of the face of the Moon is in darkness, and then, as your eyes adjust, it will GLOW, from the EARTHSHINE light from the world’s cities and the light of the sun refracting (bending) through the Earth’s atmosphere and have a reddish glow (like the photos taken in 2018).

WHY and WHAT HAPPENS DURING A LUNAR ECLIPSE – Each Month the Moon goes round the Earth, but it’s orbit takes it up and down in a path across the sky that is several times Wider than the Moon and the shadow of the Earth cast by the Sun. During a LUNAR eclipse (Always at night) the Moon crosses the sky ‘behind’ the Earth and passes into the Partial Shadow of the Earth, and then the Full shadow of the Earth, cutting out all the light from the Sun. The moon that you can see during this phase of the eclipse is likely to be coloured, with Sunset like colours, as the light now falling on it is only the light that has been bent, passing through the Earth’s Atmosphere. The Colour that you may see on the night of the 26th might surprise you, it might be bright, or it might be very dark, nearly invisible. Everyone on Earth (or on the Iinternational Space Station?) who can see the Moon, weather permitting may get to see the Lunar Eclipse.

Photos: 28 July 2018, T. Stevenson


SOLAR ECLIPSES– occur in daylight, when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun (on the other side of Earth than for Lunar Eclipses) these occur very infrequently and can only be seen along a narrow path and for only a few minutes.


WHY NOW? The Moon will be eclipsed as it falls through the Earth’s shadow, because on this night it will be passing through the Earth’s shadow, rather than passing behind the Earth Above or Below where the Earth’s shadow trails it in space.


FOR ADULTS As the central feature of this event, the Moon fading, blacking out and being re-illuminated by Earthshine. You could try photographing it, as it presents a more ‘Three Dimensional’ image by Earthlight than by full Full Moon Sun light. As a Lunar Eclipse takes some time, a bottle of white wine (Starwine anyone?) and Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, or Ernst Holst’s ’The Planets Suite’ are particularly recommended as being excellent Total Lunar Eclipse time listening.

OBSERVATIONAL The Moon fits nearly thirteen ‘Months’ into our Civil calendar of twelve, that are 30 and 31 days long. You might care to show your children that in the days after the Eclipse, the Moon can be seen in daylight, rising ever higher and higher each morning, getting thinner and thinner, from a full circle to a narrow crescent, before it passes the Sun and is ‘reborn’ as the new moon and being seen just after the Sun sets.

CULTURAL You might look up the stories of your culture about the Moon, what it is called in languages other than English as well getting your children to ask their Grandparents or other elders about what they know of the moon, old time stories and festivals. Every human culture has it’s own Agricultural and hunting traditions involving moon light, some traditions even worshipped Moon as a god. One Australian Aboriginal tradition story has the Moon as a lazy hunter, who visits his wives, the seven sisters of the Plieades, only once a month, and who gets up each morning about an hour later than the previous day. Some cultures see a Rabbit on the Moon, others a Donkey or a Mouse.

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