The first total lunar eclipse in more than two years coincides with a “supermoon” Wednesday, putting on a cosmic show for at least half the world.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the moon will gradually get darker, taking on a rusty or blood-red color. The color is so striking, lunar eclipses are sometimes called blood moons.
This lunar eclipse coincides with the moon’s nearest approach to Earth, making it appear as the closet and largest full moon of the year. This is what is commonly referred to as a supermoon.
The super “blood” moon will be visible Wednesday across the Pacific — offering the best viewing — as well as the western half of North America, bottom of South America and eastern Asia. Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii, will also see the eclipse in its entirety.
The total eclipse will last about 15 minutes as Earth passes directly between the moon and the sun. But the entire show will last five hours, as Earth’s shadow gradually covers the moon, then starts to ebb. The reddish-orange color is the result of all the sunrises and sunsets in Earth’s atmosphere projected onto the surface of the eclipsed moon.
May’s full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the flower moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance.