New Zealanders looking at the sky on a Friday night will receive an incredibly rare lunar spectacle that has not been seen in their skies for over 800 years.
The longest partial lunar eclipse observed in New Zealand since 1212 would begin at 8:20 p.m., in New Zealand, when the Earth’s shadow would begin to move across the moon’s face. It is 97% covered by shadow by 10 p.m. At that moment, the surface of the moon turns red for a moment. The near-complete eclipse ends his three-and-a-half-hour journey just before midnight.
Rob Davison, an astronomer at Auckland Stardome Observatory, said: “When you have a complete lunar eclipse, it’s not uncommon for it to last a full three and a half hours, sometimes a little shorter, sometimes longer. But a partial eclipse lasts so long, it’s just very rare.
“Much of the eclipse is dominated by a shadow that moves across the moon, and in a short period of time it will be visible in the blood microon in our night sky.”
He said this is a rare occurrence for two main reasons, the first of which is a partial eclipse, but also where the moon is in orbit.
“The moon is in apogee, which means it’s in its farthest point at Earth. The orbit of the moon isn’t a perfect circle, it’s an ellipse, which means that when it orbits, it gets a little closer and then when it swings, it goes a little farther, “Davison said.
“So when it’s at its nearest point, it’s called a perigee, and then you get a so-called super moon – about 360,000 miles away. When it swings to the other side and is in apogee, it is about 400,000 kilometers away. ”
The moon moves more slowly at this point, and for this reason there is an “unusually long” partial eclipse.
The eclipse is visible elsewhere in the world, especially in the western United States. But for New Zealanders, this eclipse is even more special because it happens at night, when astronomers are more likely to be awake, Davison said.
There will be 13 complete or near-complete lunar eclipses in New Zealand over the next 20 years. But seven of them are early in the morning. Four appears at midnight. “Only two of them are in the evening, including this one,” he said.
“So, if people don’t really want to be late, or if they have families or smaller children, this is really good to do.”
For those who are curious or unable to watch, NASA will broadcast the event live.