Night owls and space-lovers will enjoy a rare celestial event this Sunday when the Earth moves between the sun and the moon. As astronomy-enthusiasts know, the upcoming lunar eclipse, also known as a ‘Blood Moon’ will cast the moon in a deep orange-red hue as it falls completely behind the shadow of the Earth.
For Greater Victoria (and the rest of North America) the prime window for viewing is between 6:36 p.m. and 11:48 p.m. At 8:41, the total eclipse starts and the moon will be cast in red until 9:43 p.m. when the west side of the moon begins to leave the Earth’s shadow.
Have you ever 👀 a lunar eclipse through a giant telescope🔭? Now's your chance! Come down to the #UVic observatory for a rare treat 🌑
More info and registration here https://t.co/agV57ChEiF @PHASTatUVIC @UVicScience #yyjevents pic.twitter.com/d5nzyrqVKw
— UVic Events (@UVicEvents) January 15, 2019
University of Victoria astronomer Dr. Karun Thanjavur said the red hue can be attributed to the same scattering of particles that makes the sun look red during sunrises and sunsets. Colours on the blue end of the colour spectrum are scattered, leaving behind shades of red, orange and yellow.
In fact, Thanjavur said if someone was sitting on the moon during the eclipse they would think they were seeing a sunset.
“[We] are just looking at it through the earth’s atmosphere,” he explained.
On Sunday, UVic hosts an open house so the public can view the eclipse from its observatory.
Thanjavur said that, weather-dependent, the public can get an exceptional view of the moon’s surface using UVic telescopes.
“Usually, when you have a full moon, you can’t look at the moon at all through a telescope because it’s so blindingly bright,” he said. “During the eclipse, because of the dimming, we can actually look at it.”
“This time, because of the magnification offered by the telescope, you will get to see the craters during an eclipse. You’ll see more surface features of the moon.”
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. on the fifth floor of the Bob Wright Centre. Registration is encouraged but not required. Visitors are encouraged to come out only if the weather is optimal for moon-viewing.
For those who prefer to watch the eclipse with their eyes, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s (RASC) Victoria chapter recommends heading eastward.
“Because the eclipse begins in the eastern sky, sites like Island View Beach, Cattle Point Dark Sky Park, Mount Tolmie and Clover Point are good vantage points,” said RASC president Reg Bunkley.
Bunkley said Victoria’s response to the last lunar eclipse, back in 2015, was remarkable.
“People came by the thousands to Clover Point, Island View Beach, Esquimalt Lagoon and the DAO to bear witness to an astronomical spectacle. The magnitude of the response was a wonderful surprise.”
The RASC is not hosting any special events this year.
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