The Moon is at the centre of a rare celestial event this weekend. Known as a Supermoon Lunar Eclipse, it occurs only once every few decades and is visible only for a few hours. We explain how you can watch the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse, why it is a rare event, and how it occurs.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is in between the Moon and the Sun – or when the Moon is in the Earth’s shadow. It only occurs on full Moon nights. A lunar eclipse is set to occur this weekend, which will bathe the Moon in a red glow. This isn’t really a rare event as it occurs up to five times every year. So what makes this weekend’s lunar eclipse special? The fact that it’s coinciding with a supermoon, making it a Supermoon Lunar Eclipse.
The orbit of the Moon is elliptical, and the Earth is not at the perfect centre of its orbit. This means that one end of the Moon’s orbit is a lot closer to the Earth than the other end. The farthest end of the Moon’s orbit is called apogee and the point at which the Moon is closest to Earth is referred to as its perigee. When the moon is at its perigee, it becomes a supermoon – as it appears up to 14 percent larger in diameter and much brighter when viewed from Earth.
When a lunar eclipse occurs while the Moon is at its perigee, a rare celestial event takes place. This is called a Supermoon Lunar Eclipse. According to Nasa, this is also known as a Super Blood Moon, Supermoon Eclipse, and Harvest Moon Eclipse. This combination of events is rare due to the number of conditions it needs to fulfil. Nasa says that it has only occurred five times since 1900. The last time a Supermoon Lunar Eclipse occurred was in 1982 and Nasa says if you miss it this weekend, then you’ll have to wait till 2033 for the next one. Nasa explains Supermoon Lunar Eclipse in the video below.
If you live in Africa, Europe, or the Americas you’ll be able to see the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse on Sunday night. The Supermoon accompanied by partial Lunar Eclipse begins at 9:07pm New York Time, with total eclipse slated to begin at 10:11pm. The total Supermoon Lunar Eclipse ends at 11:23pm Eastern time. If you can’t catch it for any reason, you can always tune in to the Nasa Supermoon Lunar Eclipse live stream.