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When and how to see the the lunar eclipse (and yes, the ‘super moon’)

On Wednesday, the moon will glide through Earth’s shadow, giving us the only total lunar eclipse of the year and the first one since January 2019.

The only problem is that totality isn’t visible across the entire country, and you’ll have to be up very early in the morning to catch it with a good view of the western horizon as the eclipse begins as the moon is setting.

This eclipse is dubbed the “super flower blood moon” eclipse by some, and here’s why.

First, it’s a “super moon,” a term that has gained popularity over the past decade. A “super moon” refers to a full moon that is closest to Earth in its monthly orbit. (It’s not a term used by astronomers, though many have opted to use it in outreach.) To the naked eye, it will be difficult to see the size difference between an average full moon and this one. 

Second, each month’s full moon is given a name by Farmer’s Almanac. In this case, May’s moon is the “flower moon” due to the time of year when flowers begin to bloom.

And finally, the “blood moon” refers to the colour a moon can turn during totality, or when it is entirely in Earth’s shadow.

may 26 lunar eclipse
Events for the total lunar eclipse on the morning of May 26 using co-ordinated universal time. (Leah Tiscione/Sky & Telescope; Source: USNO)

Earth actually has two shadows, a penumbra — which is faint — and an umbra. However, when the moon passes through the penumbra, it’s almost undetectable to the human eye.

Wednesday’s eclipse will be visible in its entirety in the Pacific and in most of Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. 

There are several phases to a total lunar eclipse, beginning with the penumbral, then the partial, then totality. As the moon moves out of the umbra, the phases reverse.

Some local times

In Canada, the eclipse will begin in the east just as the moon is setting. All that will be visible will be the penumbral, which you likely won’t be able to discern. 

Across the rest of Canada, you’ll have to get up quite early to see any of the eclipse.

The moon enters the penumbra at 8:47 UTC (co-ordinated universal time, which is used for all astronomical events), or 4:47 a.m. ET, but it’s likely you’ll barely notice it.

The partial phase begins at 9:45 ET. For those in the east, the moon will be below the horizon.

For those in Manitoba and to the west (also including the Northwest Territories), you’ll get a better view than those in parts of central Ontario will. For those Ontarians, the moon will be low on the horizon and look like a sliver is missing from it.

  • Winnipeg: The partial phase begins at 4:44 a.m. local time, but the moon will set at 5:37 a.m.
  • Edmonton and Calgary: The partial phase begins at 3:44 a.m.; totality begins at 5:11 a.m. and ends at 5:25 a.m. The moon sets at 5:42 a.m.
  • Vancouver: The partial phase begins at 2:44 a.m.; totality begins at 4:11 a.m. and ends at 4:25 a.m. The moon sets at 5:26 a.m.

For those who may want to catch it and may have clouds, you can always watch it online through the Virtual Telescope Project, Timeanddate.com or with the Lowell Telescope’s YouTube channel.

may 26 map lunar eclipse
This map shows locations worldwide from which the May 26 total lunar eclipse will be visible, weather permitting. Because an eclipsed moon is always full, the moon sets (or rises) at almost the same time as the sun rises (or sets) on the opposite horizon. For Canada, views improve farther west. (Leah Tiscione / Sky & Telescope; Source: USNO)

If you miss this eclipse, you can see the next one on Nov. 19. While technically it is considered a partial lunar eclipse, only a sliver will remain outside the umbra, so for all intents and purposes, it will look like a total lunar eclipse.

Also, coming up on June 10, there will be an annual solar eclipse, where the moon will only partially cover the sun.

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