We’re getting a mini lunar eclipse on July 17 – and its timing is appropriately close to the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 (on July 16), the first space flight to take humans to the moon.
“It’s one of those nice, coincidental things,” says astrophysicist Clare Kenyon from the University of Melbourne. “The moon is in a very similar phase to what it was during that time, so you can pretend you are back at the first landing – not that there was a partial eclipse, just that it was in a similar phase. It’s kind of cool actually.”
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the shadow of the Earth. This one will have a red tinge, which Kenyon says is caused when the light around the earth slightly refracts and hits the moon’s surface. The reddish tinge will be a small example of a "blood moon". A full blood moon occurs only during a total lunar eclipse, not during a partial eclipse like this one.
Kenyon says if you want to catch the partial lunar eclipse you’ll want to look west (specifically west-south-west), and be at a high vantage point where the horizon isn’t blocked by trees and buildings.
“[The moon] should start off quite bright, and at about 4.34am, it will start to get darker and darker and darker,” says Kenyon.
The partial eclipse will start at 6.01am AEST.
“That is where the moon starts to enter the smaller shadow, the umbra – the darkest part of the shadow,” says Kenyon.
At about 7.30am AEST, the moon will take on a reddish colour.
“Between 6.00am and 7.30am, you will be able to see that Pacman sort of shadow taking a bite out of the full moon, and it will start to get bigger and bigger and bigger,” she explains.
While you’re at it, Kenyon says you might also want to look out for Saturn, which will be setting in a very similar space to the moon.
The partial eclipse will be visible from Australia, Africa, South America and most parts of Europe and Asia. It’ll be missed by our friends in North America, save the southern and eastern-most parts of the continent. This will be the earth’s last umbral lunar eclipse until May 2021.
Time and Date have a simulation of the partial lunar eclipse in Melbourne if 6am is still too early for you.
This article was updated on July 10, 2019 at 11.35am.