Early on Saturday morning a blood moon will be visible in Australian skies.
“A blood moon is what we call a solar lunar eclipse. It turns red for exactly the same reasons that sunrise and sunsets have that reddish tinge,” senior lecturer in astrophysics at the University of Melbourne Christian Reichardt tells Broadsheet.
“The blue light as it passes through the atmosphere is scattered more strongly, so you’re left with the red light skimming over the Earth when the Earth is between the moon and the sun. We see that red light reflected back towards us.”
In Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane the moon will begin to turn red at around 4.24am Australian Eastern Standard Time on Saturday. In Adelaide, the red will start to show from roughly 3.54am, and in Perth from 2.24am.
After about two hours the moon will turn red. The moon will not fully eclipse for those viewing the phenomenon on the east coast but those living further west will see the moon completely leave the shadow of the earth.
This is the fourth lunar eclipse this year, but it’s the last one until 2021 viewable from Australia. The blood moon will be visible to the naked eye providing clouds stay out of the way.
“The moon’s pretty easy to see. It’s bright,” jokes Reichardt. “The main risk is if it’s cloudy.”
Reichardt says moon-gazers can use the opportunity to look for other planets including Jupiter and Mars. The best way to locate the planets in the night sky is with a mobile app such as StarTracker, Reichardt says.
There are many legends around the world associated with celestial phenomena, and it’s no different for some of Australia’s First Peoples.
As explained by the CSIRO the Warlpiri people, who live mostly north and west of Alice Springs, say a lunar eclipse is caused when the Sun-woman makes up ground during her threatening pursuit of the Moon-man. The story shows how the Walpiri understood the correlation between the movements of different celestial bodies and the visual phenomena they produce.