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Lunar eclipse promises ‘blood red moon’

A total lunar eclipse will be visible from Gibraltar tonight.

However, the moon will be too low over the horizon - when the moon starts passing the Earth's shadow - to actually witness the event in its entirety.

The event will result in a blood red moon, which should make for incredible photos, said William Recagno, President of the Gibraltar Astronomical Society.

Due to the volcanic activity around the world, such as in Hawaii, creating particulates it is expected that this blood red moon will be very vivid in colour, Mr Recagno told the Chronicle.
Although not directly visible the lunar eclipse will start at 7.14pm when the penumbral stage begins.

This is the first stage of when the moon is covered by three different shadows, the penumbral is the outer part – a light part of the shadow.

The partial eclipse will begin at 8.24pm, but will not be directly visible. An hour later moonrise will occur just below the horizon, therefore making it not visible.

The first sign of the blood red moon will be at 9.30pm when the total eclipse begins. “Since the Moon is near the horizon at this time, we recommend going to a high point or finding an unobstructed area with free sight to East-southeast for the best view of the eclipse,” said Mr Recagno.

At 10.21pm the maximum eclipse will occur, this is when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow. “Moon close to horizon, so make sure you have free sight to East-southeast,” advises Mr Recagno.

Just under an hour later at 11.13pm the total eclipse ends. At 12.19am the partial eclipse ends and at 1.28am the penumbral eclipse ends.

The Gibraltar Astronomical Society will have members available from 9.30pm on Friday evening until the eclipse ends at around 1.28am at the Caleta Car Park. There the public can ask dedicated committee members any questions on the event they will be witnessing.

The maximum period of the Lunar Eclipse will be at 10.21 pm when the Moon will be totally immersed in the Earth’s shadow (UMBRA). The totality of the event will last 6 hours 14 mins starting from 7.14pm (Friday Evening) until 1.28 a.m. (Saturday Morning).

During a Total Lunar Eclipse, the Sun, Earth and Moon form a straight line. The Earth blocks any direct sunlight from reaching the Moon. The Sun is behind the Earth, so the Sun's light casts the Earth's shadow on the Moon. This shadow covers the entire Moon and causes a Total Lunar Eclipse.

Then the Moon is covered by three different shadows and they are defined as the following;
Penumbra - the outer part. (A light part of the shadow)
Umbra - darker, central part. (The totally darkest point of the shadow)
Antumbra – (a partly shaded area beyond the umbra.)

“In our case in Gibraltar, we shall be immersed totally in the umbra at the maximum period of the eclipse, or the darker part of the shadow, and hence have a dark reddish hue once we reach the maximum,” said Mr Recagno.

“In fact having the moon so low in the horizon we expect it to a blood red moon. This is because the reflected light of the moon has to travel a larger part of the atmosphere because they are very close to the horizon.”

“Since blue light is scattered more by the gas molecules in the atmosphere, blue light is filtered out before it reaches the Earth and the light that makes it through appears more orange and red. Therefore, light other than red is mostly scattered away. Most of the red light, which is the least scattered, enters our eyes,” he added.

“Even though the Earth completely blocks sunlight from directly reaching the surface of the Moon, our natural satellite is still visible to the naked eye during a Total Lunar Eclipse. This is because the Earth's atmosphere refracts sunlight and indirectly lights up the Moon's surface,” said Mr Recagno.

“Although we get the reddish glow on the Moon’s surface this has to do with the amount of debris or particles we have at the atmosphere’s level and this has to do mainly with volcanic activity over the past few months.”

“If we are lucky enough to harvest the amount of volcanic ash there is in the upper echelons of the stratosphere, then this year we can expect a Blood Red Moon.”

“The ultimate importance of the eclipse is to determine the amount of natural pollutants we have in our atmosphere and thus define our overall status globally,” he added.

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