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Mark Your Calendar for This Blood Moon in Westchester

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Photo by James/ Adobe Stock

Our resident NASA Solar System Ambassador, teacher, and host of the Science@Home podcast, Charles Fulco, waxes sanguine for blood moons.

For those of you who like your lunar eclipses on the reddish side, circle May 15 on your calendar, dig out your lounge chair, grab a snack, and plan to stay up a little late that night to see the first of two total lunar eclipses that will be visible from Westchester this year.

Total lunar eclipses have become known as “blood moons” for the color that the lunar surface takes on while our celestial neighbor is immersed within the umbra, or darkest part of Earth’s shadow. Sunlight that is refracted by our planet’s atmosphere falls upon the Moon, giving it the characteristic ruddy hue for which total lunar eclipses are known.

Blood moon

Photo by James/ Adobe Stock

Total lunar eclipses have become known as “blood moons” for the color that the lunar surface takes on while our celestial neighbor is immersed within the umbra, or darkest part of Earth’s shadow. Sunlight that is refracted by our planet’s atmosphere falls upon the Moon, giving it the characteristic ruddy hue for which total lunar eclipses are known.

While the previous lunar eclipse, in November, took place in the wee hours of the morning, this one isn’t too bad. It begins at 9:32 p.m. EDT as the Moon enters the outer, fainter penumbral section of Earth’s shadow — but you won’t notice anything unusual until about an hour later, when the Moon enters the more distinct, darker umbra. At that point, relax in your lounge chair and watch the slow but steady progression of Earth’s shadow onto the Moon until totality arrives, at 11:29 p.m.

If you stay up through the 84-minute totality, notice subtle changes in lighting on Luna’s surface as she progresses to the other edge of the umbra, noting that the northern part of the lunar sphere, which is more deeply immersed in shadow, will appear darker than the southern part.

Finally, at 1:55 a.m. on May 16, the partial stage of the eclipse ends, and you should really head inside and go to bed after a long evening of observing. If you enjoy this one, you’re in luck, as November 8 brings the Westchester night sky yet another blood moon to enjoy within the same year — but you may want to swap your glass of wine for a cup of hot cocoa.

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