Total lunar eclipse to turn sky blood red
Published 20/12/2010 | 04:17
A blood red sky is expected over Ireland tomorrow morning due to a total eclipse of the moon.
Millions of commuters are expected to do a double take when they see the sky turning red at around 8am.
Just before sunlight spills into Newgrange on the morning on the shortest day of the year, the totally eclipsed Moon will turn a deep red as it sets in the west.
The spectacular vision of the moon disappearing into the earth's shadow will be the last total eclipse Ireland will see for five years.
The chairman of Astronomy Ireland, David Moore, said it will be an extraordinary sight in the skies as people set off for work.
He said: "This has scared the living daylights out of people in the past especially if they are not expecting it."
The sight will be visible to millions of people and no viewing equipment will be necessary.
As the moon moves into the earth's shadow in the last eclipse of the decade the moon will slowly disappear in a growing darkness. But just when onlookers expect it to be completely hidden in a dark shadow, it begins to glow red.
The eclipse begins at 6.30am, when a small bite will be taken out of the moon's left edge.
The eclipse will be total from 7.40am until 8.53am by which time the sun will have risen.
"With both the lunar eclipse and solstice on the same day, there is going to be lots to see," said Mr Moore.
Mr Moore said Astronomy Ireland will be holding their annual winter solstice watch in Sean Moore Park, Sandymount, Dublin, tomorrow morning.
But skywatchers will get a double helping of nature's spectacular visions on the winter solstice.
He said: "After watching the lunar eclipse, observers can watch the sun rise, lined up with a modern standing stone alignment in the park.
From locations in Scotland and Northern Ireland, totality will be visible in its entirety, but the Moon will be low down after the time of greatest eclipse.
During totality the Moon tracks through the northern part of the Earth's dark umbral shadow, so the southern half will appear considerably darker than the northern part.
John Mason, from the British Astronomical Association, said: "Observers should go out at about 6.30am when, if the sky is clear, the Moon will be visible in the western sky, and they will be able to watch as more and more of the southern part of the Moon becomes immersed in the Earth's shadow.
"They can continue watching until the eclipse becomes total at 7.40am, and hopefully for a little while after this time, if they have an unobstructed western horizon."
The brightness of the eclipse depends on the conditions in the Earth's upper atmosphere through which all light falling on to the shadowed Moon has to pass.
Dr Mason added: "For observers in the British Isles, the very low elevation of the Moon during the total phase means that it is not possible to predict just how dark the Moon will be when it is eclipsed, or what colour it will appear.
"One will just have to go out and have a look."