Cancel your early-bird dinner date on Friday – there’s going to be a perfectly timed partial lunar eclipse that, without a telescope, will look a lot like a total lunar eclipse.
“At 97 per cent, we’re getting very close [to a total lunar eclipse],” says Gomeroi astrophysicist Karlie Noon. “To our human eyes, it’d be very unlikely we’d see that sliver of three per cent that isn’t eclipsed.”
Friday night’s partial lunar eclipse is a somewhat rare chance to see the moon tinted deep red thanks to the effects of light passing through the Earth’s shadow.
“Visually, we will have this beautiful, spectacular full moon and we’ll be able to see it go from this luminous white colour to a really deep red that is almost going to look like Mars. It’s an effect that will be visible all around the world, and it’s not that common to be able to see the same phenomenon around the world,” Noon tells Broadsheet.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the partial eclipse will be visible just after sunset – exact times are listed below. “It’s going to take a little bit of time for the sky to start getting dark, but you’re going to be able to see some lingering effects until about 9pm.
“My recommendation, if you ever want to see something up in the sky, is to get up high,” says Noon. “Go somewhere dark. You don’t have to leave the city, but if you can face away from the bright lights with the moon in front of you, it will help reduce the effects of light pollution.”
The moon will be rising in the north-east, and if you want to get the best possible view without going outside, you can tune into a livestream from Sydney Observatory hosted by Noon, fellow astrophysicist Dr Andrew Jacob and Sydney Observatory astronomy ambassador Kat Ross.
It’s an opportunity to see it in “high definition”, says Noon. “I’m doing a PhD in astrophysics and I don’t have a telescope – they’re really expensive pieces of equipment – so this is an opportunity to see it up close but also to listen to really fantastic Australian scientists.”
Noon, the first Aboriginal woman in Australia to graduate with a double degree in mathematics and physics, will be sharing perspectives from First Nations scientists and storytellers. She says the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land often talk about seeing the colour red in the sky in connection with the sun woman, Walu.
“They see the sun as a woman, which is a common thread among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They say that each morning Walu lights a small fire and she decorates herself with red ochre, and that’s why we see this red colour in the sky, whether it’s in the morning, during sunset or in eclipses. It’s an acknowledgment of this phenomena in their stories.”
Where and when can I see the partial lunar eclipse?
Sydney Observatory is live-streaming the event on Facebook from 7.30pm AEST.