No sleep from Saturday night until Monday night. Was it worth it?
This was one of the darkest eclipses I've seen. For me, it rated as a 2 on Danjon Scale. Must've been a lot of clouds or dust in the Earth's atmosphere which prevented light reaching the moon.
I watched the eclipse through a 10 inch Dobsonian. The view was spectacular and the colours sublime.
The next total lunar eclipse for the UK will be in July 2018.
The simulation below shows the Earth and Moon at the time of the eclipse. It takes several hours for the moon to pass through the shadow.
The video doesn't show what really makes these eclipses special: at mid-eclipse the full moon is dimmed to an orange/copper colour by sunlight which has been filtered through the Earth’s atmosphere. The exact appearance and degree to which the Moon is dimmed is somewhat unpredictable because it depends on the state of our atmosphere at the time.
Visibility of the eclipse
In the UK: Where to look?
It's a full moon: if the sky is clear you won't have a problem finding it! The middle of the eclipse is at 3.46am (BST) and the moon will be in the southwest sky among the stars of Pisces.
The Earth’s shadow consists of two regions: a dark central region (the umbra) and a lighter boundary (the penumbra). The umbra is a region where all direct sunlight is cut off and the penumbra is a region where only part of the sunlight is blocked. You can witness the sight of these two shadows on a smaller scale by examining the shadow of your hand or another object as cast by desktop lamp.
The times at which the Moon enters and leaves the penumbra and umbra are as follows:
How to observe
You don't need big telescopes to observe a lunar eclipse; the changing face of the moon as the Earth's shadow falls across it will be obvious to the naked eye. Binoculars will provide a fine view of the moon too. In many recent total lunar eclipses a band of turquoise light, caused by light scattering through our ozone layer has been widely observed: binoculars and small telescopes should be enough to show this.
The ideal place on Earth to see this eclipse would be the north coast of Brazil - near the border with French Guiyana; the moon will be overhead at mid-eclipse. Good views for my wife's family in Venezuela too!
Future lunar eclipses
There won’t be another total lunar eclipse visible in its entirety from Northumberland until 2019, so local amateur astronomers will be trying to observe this one despite the unsociable hour of it!
This is quite a length blog post; it contains rough notes from a talk about planetary motion that I presented at The Trap Inn on September 10th 2015. Usually I'd be happy to post the presentation....but that would make it difficult to share the fantastic interactive flash stuff from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that I used.
Read on to find out more!
Dr Adrian Jannetta
Guitar strummin' explorer of the universe. Mild mannered maths teacher by day and astronomer by night.