How to watch this weekend’s ‘Blood Moon’ lunar eclipse in St. Louis
Amateur astronomers in Missouri and Illinois will be watching the skies late Sunday night for a glimpse of a late-night lunar eclipse.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth, sun and moon directly align. The moon often appears reddish-orange as it slowly moves into the Earth’s shadow, a result of sunlight scattering in the upper reaches of the atmosphere and refracting back on the moon’s surface. Lunar eclipses happen regularly each year, but not all are visible in North America.
If skies are clear, the eclipse will be visible around 9:30 p.m. and will peak about 90 minutes later.
During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth is sandwiched between the sun and the moon. As the sun shines on one side of the Earth, it creates a “cone of darkness” over the moon, said Rich Heuermann of the St. Louis Astronomical Society.
“What you'll start to see is a darkened slice at the edge of the moon and that little slice will get bigger and bigger, until the moon is totally covered,” said Heuermann, former assistant director of the McDonnell Planetarium in St. Louis.
Though nicknamed the “blood moon” for its brilliant red hue, the moon’s color can vary, depending on the composition of particles in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The moon will be fully obscured for about an hour and a half, beginning at 10:30 p.m. — a period known as totality. The eclipse will end just before 1 a.m. Monday.
“If you have a clear view toward the south, just look out your back door and watch for a few minutes,” said Heuermann, also a retired member of Washington University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “If you're out where the sky is dark, when the moon is in the Earth's shadow, the whole sky darkens and the stars come out more brilliantly.”
Lunar eclipse viewing events on Sunday:
Jefferson College Observatory, 9873 Farm Road, Hillsboro, Missouri. Event begins at 9 p.m. and is open to the public. Members of the St. Louis Astronomical Society will provide telescopes. Event information available on the St. Louis Astronomical Society website.
Broemmelsiek Park Astronomy Site, 1593 Schwede Road, Defiance. The Astronomical Society of Eastern Missouri will host a public lunar eclipse event, beginning at 9 p.m. The site offers 10 viewing stations in a remote section of the park with limited light pollution. More information and directions available here.
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