Wednesday, 16 Jun 2021

Catch the 'super flower blood moon' eclipse on May 26

SINGAPORE – Turn to the sky on Wednesday (May 26) evening as the Moon puts on a triple cosmic show – a total lunar eclipse with the supermoon burning red.

The total lunar eclipse – the first since 2019 – will occur between 4.47pm and 9.49pm but the phenomenon can be seen in Singapore only from 7.04pm, when the Moon rises above the horizon, making its appearance with a reddish hue.

During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth will pass in front of the Sun, forming a perfect alignment with the Moon. In this way, the Earth blocks direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.

The Moon then appears coppery red, what is called a “blood moon”. This happens because the longer red wavelengths of light are refracted or bent towards the Moon, according to National Geographic.

The brightness of the Moon’s red glow depends on how much dust and clouds are in the atmosphere.

The Moon will enter total eclipse from 7.11pm, and remain at that stage till 7.25pm. During that time, the blood moon will be seen, said Mr Jyh Harng, a science educator at Science Centre Singapore.

“Of course, the Moon will be a lot dimmer than usual during totality and may or may not be visible to the naked eye, depending on various conditions such as weather and air conditions,” he added.

The phenomenon also coincides with the supermoon phase, when the rocky satellite is at its closest point to Earth, resulting in the biggest full moon of the year.

Hence, the cosmic spectacle on Vesak Day on Wednesday is called the super flower blood moon eclipse. The full moon is also known as the flower moon, named by Native Americans as an ode to the month of May, when flowers bloom in abundance, added Mr Harng.

Dr Abel Yang from the National University of Singapore’s physics department said: “This phenomenon is special because the eclipse coincides with the Moon at its closest approach to Earth, known as a supermoon. The Moon will appear slightly larger than usual.”

Stargazers will need a good view of the eastern horizon, without any obstructions such as buildings or trees, as the Moon rises in the east. An elevated location is ideal, said Mr Harng.

The eastern horizon is in the opposite direction of the setting sun.

From 7.25pm to 8.52pm, the Moon moves out of Earth’s shadow core and turns brighter during the partial eclipse phase.

From 8.52pm to 9.49pm, the Moon shifts away from the Earth’s shadow – a celestial curtain fall – and the eclipse ends.

Using a pair of binoculars or a telescope will offer an enhanced viewing experience, said Mr Harng.

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Although the Science Centre Observatory is not open to the public, it will live-stream the eclipse on its Facebook page if weather permits.

The last total lunar eclipse and blood moon seen in Singapore was on July 28, 2018. On April 27 this year, the Moon also treated stargazers to a pink supermoon.

The next total lunar eclipse visible in Singapore will be on Nov 8 next year.

The Astronomical Society of Singapore said: “Provided the weather is good, a red moon rising will be a treat for observers in Singapore.

“Some of our members will be observing and photographing the celestial event on their own, taking all necessary safe distancing precautions.”

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