The moon shines by acting like a mirror and reflecting the light from the sun towards earth. As the moon orbits the earth, sometimes the moon will pass into the shadow of the earth cast by the sun, as the sun earth and moon line up in space. When this happens, observers on earth experience a dimming of the moon. This is a lunar eclipse. There are three different types of lunar eclipses. A total lunar eclipse, a partial lunar eclipse and a penumbral lunar eclipse.
A total lunar eclipse happens when the moon passes fully into the darkest part of the earth’s shadow. As this is happening, it appears that chunks are being taken out of the moon until the whole moon has passed into shadow and often will turn a blood red colour. If the moon doesn’t quite make it all the way into the darkest part of the shadow of the earth, then observers on earth get to experience a partial lunar eclipse where a chunk has been taken out of the moon. The size of the chunk varies from eclipse to eclipse and on how much of the moon passes into the darkest part of the shadow.
Later tonight and into Saturday morning, the moon will pass into the lighter part of the earth’s shadow in what is known as a penumbral lunar eclipse. These types of eclipses are usually the most subtle and often are hard to notice. This time however, the moon passes very close to the darkest part of earth’s shadow and so a distinct dimming of the Moon should be visible. The eclipse begins at 10.30 pm but maximum eclipse is at 0.44 am so that’s when it should be most visible. Head out for a look within 30 minutes of this time and you should be rewarded with a good view. The moon should be distinctly dimmer on one side.
I would love to see any photographs anyone manages to take. You can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy eclipse hunting and hopefully the weather cooperates.