CARLSBAD, CA — The lunar spectacular occurring next week over Carlsbad is a bit of a mouthful: It’s a super flower blood moon, and it’s definitely going to be worth marking on your calendar — even though visibility of the lunar eclipse will vary across the country.
Western U.S. states are prime locations to see the total lunar eclipse Tuesday and Wednesday, May 25-26. States east of the Mississippi River will see a partial eclipse, but East Coasters won’t see much as the moon turns a dark reddish color — hence, the blood moon moniker — as the moon enters the Earth’s shadow.
Folks in our area of the country will have to be content to gaze at the supermoon — not that taking time out to see the last in a string of three supermoons won’t be worth it. Appropriately for the grand finale in the trifecta, the May supermoon will appear to be bigger and brighter than the two preceding it.
The May full moon is also known as the flower moon for fairly obvious reasons — because it’s the month when blooms pop.
The likelihood of seeing the supermoon or the blood moon, of course, hinges on clear or mostly clear skies. The National Weather Service is forecasting increasing clouds overnight Tuesday and mostly cloudy skies Wednesday in Carlsbad.
- Duration: 4 hours, 4 minutes, 11 seconds
- Duration of totality: 14 minutes, 28 seconds
- Penumbral begins: Wednesday at 1:47:39 a.m.
- Partial begins: Wednesday at 2:44:58 a.m.
- Full begins: Wednesday at 4:11:26 a.m.
- Maximum: Wednesday at 4:18:42 a.m.
- Full ends: Wednesday at 4:25:54 a.m.
- Moonset: Wednesday at 5:51:50 a.m.
Here are five things you need to know:
1. What happens during a lunar eclipse?
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the sun and the moon, blocking the sunlight from falling on the moon, according to NASA. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon and sun are on opposite sides of Earth, and its shadow — or umbra — bathes the moon in darkness, save reflections from the sun, which gives it the dark reddish color. A partial eclipse occurs when only part of the Earth’s shadow covers the moon.
2. What’s the best way to watch the lunar eclipse?
Timing is everything, and timeanddate.com‘s timetable on the best times to watch the lunar eclipse is accurate within seconds. Be willing to commit: The entire eclipse takes about five hours, depending on the time zone.
Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are safe to view with the naked eye, and you won’t need any special equipment — save maybe a lawn chair to relax in — while you’re watching.
Depending on where you live and cloud cover, you may want to watch the lunar eclipse on various streaming platforms, or live on Patch via this video from timeanddate.com.
3. What’s a supermoon, and how does it affect the eclipse?
When the moon reaches perigee — the point it passes closest to Earth in its orbit — it will make the lunar eclipse appear slightly bigger than normal.
The moon orbits Earth in an elliptical pattern and is 221,500 miles from us when it reaches perigee. That makes it appear about 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than normal full moons.
The supermoon effect is an illusion, or trick of the eye, and that will make the lunar eclipse a bit more dramatic as the moon reaches perigee.
4. What sets the May supermoon apart from the others?
One thing the sources agree on is that May’s full moon is a supermoon. The May full moon and supermoon will come about 100 miles closer to Earth than either the March and April full moons.
During May’s full supermoon, our natural satellite comes closer to Earth in its monthly orbit than it did during the previous two supermoons, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which explains:
“To the naked eye, May’s full Moon won’t actually look any bigger or brighter than April’s, since the Moon’s distance from Earth differs by less than 100 miles between April and May. This is a miniscule distance in the grand scale of space, but we will still see a bright, beautiful supermoon nonetheless!”
5. Settle it: Are there two, three or four supermoons in 2021?
It depends on who’s being asked and their definition of a supermoon, which isn’t a scientific definition.
Astrologer Richard Nolle lists four 2021 supermoons on his supermoon list for the 21st century; the April and May full moons count, but the March full moon didn’t. He says both the Nov. 4 and Dec. 4 full moons will be supermoons. His view counts, as he coined the term in 1979 to describe new and full moons that occur when the orb is within 90 percent of perigee.
Fred Espanak, an eclipse expert and retired NASA astrophysicist, uses the same criteria and agrees with Nolle, Earthsky.org reported.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac says only the April and the upcoming May full moon qualify under its strict supermoon definition: “A supermoon is the single closest new moon and full moon of the year. By this definition, there can be only two supermoons each year (a full moon supermoon and new moon supermoon).”
The sources that list three supermoons don’t always agree on what months they’ll occur. Earthsky.org, for example, says the April, May and June full moons qualify, while Space.com says the March full moon was a supermoon.