‘Blood micromoon’: New Zealand to enjoy 800-year unprecedented partial lunar eclipse

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‘Blood micromoon’: New Zealand to enjoy 800-year unprecedented partial lunar eclipse


New Zealanders who gaze at the skies on Friday night will be treated to an incredibly rare lunar spectacle, unheard of in their skies for over 800 years.

The longest partial lunar eclipse visible in New Zealand since the year 1212 is expected to start at 8:20 p.m. NZT, when Earth’s shadow begins to move across the face of the moon. It will be covered with 97% shade at 10 p.m. At this time, the lunar surface will briefly turn red. The near-total eclipse will end its three-and-a-half-hour journey just before midnight.

Rob Davison, astronomer at Auckland Stardome Observatory, said: “When you have a total lunar eclipse, it is not uncommon for the entire one to take three and a half hours, sometimes a little shorter. , sometimes longer. But for a partial eclipse to last that long, it’s just very rare.

“Most of the eclipse will be dominated by the shadow moving across the moon, with a brief period of it appearing as a microlune of blood in our night sky. “

There are two main reasons why this is a rare event, he said, the first being that it is a partial eclipse, but also because of the position of the moon. in its orbit.

“The moon is at its apogee, which means it is at the farthest point from Earth in its orbit. The moon’s orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle, it is an ellipse, which means that as it rotates it gets a little closer, then, when it spins, it pulls away a little more, ”Davison said.

Astronomer Rob Davison with his telescope. Photograph: Supplied

“So when it’s at its closest point, it’s called perigee, and that’s when you get a so-called super moon – about 360,000 kilometers. When it rolls over to the other side and is at its peak, it is about 400,000 kilometers away.

The moon is moving slower at this point, which is why there is an “unusually long” partial eclipse.

The eclipse will be visible in other parts of the world, particularly in the western states of the United States. But for New Zealanders, this eclipse is all the more special because it occurs at a time of night when astronomers are more likely to be awake, Davison said.

New Zealand will experience 13 total or near total lunar eclipses over the next 20 years. But seven of them will be in the wee hours of the morning. Four will be visible around midnight. “Only two of them will be in the evening, including this one,” he said.

“So for people who don’t really want to stay up late, or if they have families or younger children, this is really a good thing to do. “

For the curious or those who cannot get a glimpse, NASA will broadcast the event live.

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