It won’t be just any old “Blood Moon,” you know. The total lunar eclipse that will occur on Sunday, May 15 into the early hours of Monday, May 16, 2022 is also a “supermoon.” It’s also has a twin and is the first of two of the most “balanced” lunar eclipses for four centuries.
Here’s more on those weird facts and some more strange things about this weekend’s “Blood Moon” total lunar eclipse:
1. It’s a longest ‘prime-time totality’ this century
If prime time is defined as the period between 8 pm and 11 pm then this eclipse will produce the longest prime-time totality this century for observers in the Pacific Time Zone, according to Timeanddate.com.
2. It’s a technical ‘supermoon’
This total lunar eclipse occurs close to the Moon perigee—the point in space when it’s closest to the Earth during its monthly orbit—which will make the Moon appear about 7% larger than average. The full “Flower Moon” will be 225,015 miles/362,127 km from Earth on May 16, 2022, so it’s technically a “supermoon,” although the full Moons of June, July and August this year are actually closer.
The eclipse itself is purely a visual event, but the “supermoon” nature of the Moon’s position will mean a very high and very low perigee spring tide—aka a “king tide—so brings the threat of flooding to coastal areas.
3. It’s a global event visible by half the planet
Unlike moonrises and moonsets, an eclipse of the Moon takes place at the same global time. You’re either on the night-side of Earth as the full Moon moves into Earth’s shadow … or you’re not.
Here’s the celestial schedule for North America on Sunday May 15 and into Monday, 16, 2022.
- 11:29 pm-oo:53 am EDT on Sunday May 15-Monday, 16, 2022 (peak totality at 00:11 am)
- 10:29-11:53 pm CDT on Sunday May 15, 2022 (peak totality at 11:11 pm)
- 9:29-10:53 pm MDT on Sunday May 15, 2022 (peak totality at 10:11 pm)
- 8:29-9:53 pm PDT on Sunday May 15, 2022 (peak totality at 9:11 pm)
If you’re outside during these times and the sky is clear you’ll see a “Blood Moon” in glorious reddish hues.
4. It’s got a once-in-430 years ‘twin’ eclipse
There are actually two total lunar eclipses this year, with the next one 145 days later on November 7-8, 2022. Weirdly that also features an 84-minute totality (it’s actually four seconds longer). That’s highly unusual. In fact, again according to Timeanddate.com, it’s the most balanced pair of lunar eclipses in 430 years.
5. Europe will get a glimpse of the ‘Blood Moon’ setting
Although the eclipse is ideally timed for viewing from most of the Western Hemisphere, including the Lower 48 of the United States, that means half of the Eastern Hemisphere misses out completely. The total phase occurs near moonset in Africa and western Europe, so it will be viewed only briefly low on the western horizon just before moonset and sunrise. Here’s how, when and where to see the total lunar eclipse in the UK according to BBC Sky At Night.
6. Totality will be long and dark
Totality will last for 84 minutes because the Moon will travel through the southern half of the Earth’s shadow. Consequently the Moon’s northern limb—which will be closest to the center of the Earth’s shadow—is predicted to be rather dark during totality.
7. The ‘Blood Moon’ will shine close to an orange star
During the eclipse the Moon will be visible against the backdrop of the stars of the constellation of Libra “the scales.” The more prominent stars of neighboring Scorpius, visible to the Moon’s lower left, will include the orangey Antares.
The 15th brightest star in the night sky and unmistakably reddish when viewed with the naked eye, Antares – which means “rival of Mars – is 600 light-years away about 700 times larger than the Sun.
8. The best view is from Bolivia
The “Blood Moon” will be directly overhead Salar de Uyuni—also called the Bolivian salt flats—which cover 4,000 square miles/10,000 square kilometers. This so-called “sublunar point” of the eclipse is also the area of the world with the highest chance of clear skies. Rich in lithium, table salt and gypsum, the incredibly flat and bright (from space) landscape is sometimes used by scientists to calibrate satellite imagers and altimeters. It’s also a fabulous place to go stargazing and, this weekend, moongazing.
Disclaimer: I am the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.