Queensland’s coastline has the best seats in the house for tonight’s total lunar eclipse, with a blood red moon set to grace the skies.
Queensland University of Technology astrophysicist Dr Stephen Hughes said the Earth’s shadow would begin to pass across the Moon’s surface at 7.20pm, reaching and remaining at full eclipse for an hour from 8.30pm.
“The Earth’s shadow as it orbits around the Sun extends into space to form a cone,” Dr Hughes said.
“So tonight, the Moon will go through that cone of darkness, except it’s not totally dark.
“It’s going to reflect a really brilliant orange-red ring around the Earth that’s created by all the sunrises and sunsets occurring around the Earth during the total eclipse.”
This orange-red reflection causes what is known as a ‘blood Moon’, with tonight’s spooky rising to be the second in a rare tetrad (series of four) of total lunar eclipses.
“It’s not the actual eclipses themselves that are rare, but the series of four, which occur around what’s called the Autumn Equinox and the Spring Equinox.” Dr Hughes said.
“The last tetrad before this year’s was in 2003 to 2004, and before that, 1985 to 1986, 1949 to 1950 and one quite a long time before that from 1493 to 1494.”
The first of this year’s tetrad emblazoned Australia’s skies in April, but Dr Hughes has tipped tonight’s blood Moon to be even easier for Queenslanders to see from their own back yards.
“This time it’s going to be much higher and brighter,” he said.
“Last time when we saw it, it was already red when it came up but it was quite faint and difficult to see.”
As spectacular as the blood Moon rising will be, its descriptor has rather an ominous tone, something Dr Hughes attributes to spiritual significance.
“It may just be because it becomes a blood red colour, but it also has to do with when people went hunting, as well as a biblical record,” Dr Hughes said. “There are symbols in the bible where they talk about the sun ‘turning into sackcloth’ and the Moon ‘turning to blood’, but I’m no expert.”
The public is welcome to have a closer look at the total lunar eclipse with Dr Hughes and his students, who will be photographing and observing the event with telescopes on Kidney Lawn at QUT.
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