Get ready for the longest partial lunar eclipse of the century this week

Earth will be treated to the longest partial lunar eclipse of the century this week (Getty Images/EyeEm)

A partial lunar eclipse, the longest one of the century, will take place later this week on the morning of November 19.

Nasa forecasts that the partial eclipse of the full moon will last around 3 hours, 28 minutes and 23 seconds — beginning at approximately 7.19 a.m. GMT, reaching its maximum around 9 a.m GMT and ending at 10:47 a.m GMT.

‘People in the UK will not be able to see every part of the eclipse but will still be able to see the lunar eclipse at totality when the moon turns red,’ according to an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

The partial lunar eclipse, when the Earth’s shadow covers 97% of the full moon, will be the longest of the century by far. The previous one took place in 2018 and lasted up to 1 hour and 43 minutes. 

This eclipse will also be the longest partial lunar eclipse in 580 years, according to the Holcomb Observatory at Butler University, Indiana.

What is a lunar eclipse?

Lunar eclipses happen when the Earth comes between the moon and the sun, making the earth’s shadow eclipse the moon. In the case of a partial eclipse, only most of the sun’s light is covered by the earth and results in a dark, rusty red moon.

This reddening of the moon happens when light from the sun, despite being directly blocked by Earth’s shadow, bends around our planet and travels through our atmosphere to reach the moon. 

Earth’s atmosphere filters out shorter, bluer wavelengths of light and allows only the red and orange wavelengths through, making the moon appear red. 

In the UK, the lunar eclipse will begin just over an hour before moonset when the moon enters Earth’s outer shadow in space with the moon about 10° above the northwestern horizon.

The eclipse will be visible from North America and the Pacific Ocean, Alaska, Western Europe, eastern Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

In a partial lunar eclipse, only most of the sun’s light is covered by the earth, resulting in a dark, rusty red moon. Credit: Royal Museums Greenwich

From the UK, you can catch the partial lunar eclipse in the wee hours of the morning of November 19 around 06:00am until moonset.

At around 05:30am, the full moon above the western horizon will get eclipsed by Earth’s shadow as it drops towards the horizon. As sunrise is only scheduled for 7.30am, the sky will still be dark at this time but it will still be a tricky one to watch.

The moon will enter the outer part of Earth’s shadow at 06:02am but this is unlikely to be visible in the UK.

Partial lunar eclipse 2021: Where are the best places to see it in the UK?

The best views in the UK with the greatest eclipse visibility will be from locations further north and west.

Londoners will only get six minutes to see the eclipse reach the maximum magnitude before the moon is lost below the horizon.

‘In contrast, Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis will experience just over an hour of umbral shadow crossing, the partial reaching a peak magnitude of 74% before moonset,’ according to astronomer and presenter Pete Lawrence.

For people on the western coast of Ireland, the umbral eclipse will begin an hour before moonset, the peak magnitude reaching 68%.

In order to catch any of this eclipse, Lawrence advises people to find a location with a clear, unobstructed horizon that is preferably flat in a west-northwest direction. A seaward horizon in this direction would be perfect.


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