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Supermoon to turn red as Ireland sees first total lunar eclipse in seven years

By Linda Stewart

Published 26/09/2015

An awe-inspiring blood-red
An awe-inspiring blood-red "supermoon" will cast its eerie light on the Earth early on Monday

Skywatchers are in for a treat in the early hours of Monday as the Moon turns blood red.

The first total lunar eclipse seen from Ireland in seven years will coincide with a Supermoon and a Harvest Moon. A lunar eclipse happens when the Moon passes into the shadow of the Earth in space.

This time it will coincide with the closest - and largest - Full Moon of the year, known as a Supermoon. Meanwhile, the Full Moon closest to the autumn equinox is known as a Harvest Moon.

The Moon will enter the faint outer part of the Earth's shadow, the penumbra, at 1.12am on Monday, leaving it at 6.24am. This stage is barely noticeable unless you search for it, but the main, or umbral, stage lasts from 2.27am to 5.27am.

Irish Astronomical Association spokesman Terry Moseley said: "You'll see the shadow of the Earth as a curved sector of darkness slowly creeping across the face of the Moon. The Moon moves against the starry background from west to east, or roughly from right to left, so it will be the left side of the Moon which will first enter the shadow.

"Of course, the whole sky, including the Moon, rotates in the opposite direction from east to west due to the rotation of the Earth. The total phase, when the Moon is entirely within the Earth's shadow, lasts from 3.11am to 4.23am. Maximum eclipse occurs at 3.47am."

The Moon will pass south of the centre of the Earth's shadow, so the south side of the Moon will probably be a little less dark than the north side, he said.

"The Moon never disappears completely, even in the middle of a long duration total eclipse, because the Earth's atmosphere acts as a lens and bends some sunlight onto the Moon," Mr Moseley said.

"And because it preferentially transmits more red light than blue, the Moon turns a colour ranging from dark orange to deep red, depending on the amount of dust and aerosol particles in our upper atmosphere. So, to make the event even more dramatic, it is sometimes called a Blood Moon."

All you need to observe the eclipse are your eyes and a clear sky, but binoculars or a small telescope will give an even better view if you have them

Any camera is capable of recording the eclipse, although the image will be small unless you have a zoom lens. Terry suggests trying to get a foreground object in the picture to give a sense of scale.

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