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Image / Editorial

Everything you need to know about the upcoming ‘blood moon’


By Jennifer McShane
19th Jan 2019
Everything you need to know about the upcoming ‘blood moon’

Skygazers have been told to be on the lookout for a lunar spectacle in the very early hours of this coming Monday morning as a total lunar eclipse – the only one we’ll have in 2019 – takes place.

Commonly known as a blood moon, the celestial event will see the moon temporarily change to a reddish colour which should be visible in Irish skies, provided there’s not to much cloud cover. According to Astronomy Ireland, it’s to be “the best total eclipse of the moon visible from Ireland for nearly 11 years.”

Here’s what you need to know ahead of Monday:

What is a blood moon?

A blood moon is the common (and unscientific) name for a total lunar eclipse, which is when Earth passes in between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow over the moon as sunlight is blocked. It gets its red appearance due to some sunlight getting filtered through the Earth’s atmosphere, reflecting onto the moon – hence the red appearance. Astronomy Ireland has said the moon will be very red or sometimes quite dim, but it can also have blue and white tinges. It’s also the last spectacular eclipse we’ll have until 2021, according to experts  – so it’s worth taking a good look.

Why is it called a blood moon?

The real reason that the term blood moon exists is because, apparently thousands of years ago, people used to be terrified of eclipses. They would be utterly superstitious of a moon suddenly turning to a ‘bloody’ colour, hence the name. This particular lunar eclipse was a source of fear because it wasn’t known what it was or why it was happening.

When will it be visible?

For 62 minutes between 4.41am and 5.43am the moon will be completely in shadow as viewed from the Earth. Met Éireann is predicting clear skies across the country for that time so it should be in view.

Astronomy Ireland has also requested any photos you may capture of the event for a special edition of their magazine. “We also want all your reports of what you see, and photographs taken from Ireland, for an ‘eclipse special’ issue we will be producing that will be archived in the National Library of Ireland, and the British Library for all time,” they said on their website.

If you’d like to be included, feel free to send written reports and photos to magazine@astronomy.ie