Moon eclipse at sunrise Saturday

Tomorrow morning if the skies are clear we will be able to see the start of a full eclipse of the Moon as it sets in the west. The further south and further west, the more of it you will be able to see.

In the far south if conditions are right it will be possible to see the full eclipse in the west and the Sun rising in the east at the same time, a fairly rare event. As Earth is directly between the Moon and the Sun this is only possible due to the refraction of light around Earth’s atmosphere.

RNZ: Kiwis to get glimpse of blood moon

New Zealand will get a short glimpse at the longest lunar eclipse of the century on Saturday morning.

The blood moon will last for one hour and 43 minutes, just shy of the theoretical limit of a lunar eclipse which is one hour and 47 minutes.

Unfortunately, the eclipse will only be considered partial in New Zealand.

Stardome Observatory astronomy educator Josh Kirkley said New Zealanders wanting to see the blood moon should get a clear view of the western horizon and keep their eyes peeled from 6.25am until the moon sets at 7.20am.

He said the moon would begin to enter earth’s shadow (known as the penumbra) around 5.15am and would gradually dim until about 6.25am.

At that point, it would enter the part of shadow known as the umbra (darkest part of the shadow) and start to turn red.

The moon appears red (rather than in complete darkness) due to blue light from the earth’s atmosphere refracting sunlight onto the surface of the moon.

Mr Kirkley said that the sunrise would begin during the eclipse which would “wash out” the colours of the moon as it turned red.

However, he said it was still worth seeing as the next blood moon would not be visible in New Zealand until May 2021.

Newshub: Extremely rare ‘selenelion’ to be seen in South Island skies this weekend

The south of New Zealand will witness an extremely rare celestial event this weekend.

A few minutes after 8am on Saturday, South Islanders can observe a total lunar eclipse where the Sun and Moon are both visible, which is known as a ‘selenelion’.

The areas of our planet from which it can be experienced are very limited, because the total lunar eclipse must be on-going at the time of moonset/sunrise.

A selenelion happens when the eclipsed Moon can be seen on one horizon, whilst the rising Sun can also be observed near the opposite horizon, explains Dr Duncan Steel from the Centre for Space Science Technology in Otago.

This might seem impossible – as a typical lunar eclipse happens when the Sun, Earth and Moon are in a straight line – so if the Moon is above the horizon then the Sun must be below it.

But the selenelion is possible due to the bending of the rays of light caused by Earth’s atmosphere, says Dr Steel. This enables you to see both the eclipsed Moon and the Sun at the same time, so long as you’re in the right place.

The night skies have been great lately, with the moon nearing full, Mars more prominent than usual (at it’s closest for 17 years) not far from the Moon, Jupiter prominent high in the sky early and moving to set through the night, and Venus further west in the evening, bright for a while (it sets at 9:21 pm in Dunedin, earlier further north).

The sky has just cleared again in Dunedin, and Mars can be seen just to the right of the Moon.

The forecast is fairly mixed so I’ll have to wait until the morning to know whether the eclipse will be viewable or not.