An extremely long lunar eclipse the second longest in history is upon us! On 15th June (and 16th June for some), most of the world will witness the second longest total lunar eclipse this century, short of the absolute record maximum by only three minutes. It’s going to get late into the night; if you have an early train or flight to catch, cancel tickets now! Here we present you with the all-you-need-to-know guide to the eclipse, along with a few great photos.
Select your location: Views from different places
Choose your location or a nearby one from the ones shortlisted below. See how good your luck is.
- For North east Russia: You’ll be disappointed if you live here. The beginning of the eclipse will coincide with moonset. In other words, you’ll be able to see the moon dimming down as it goes over the horizon (when the penumbral shadow comes in). When the umbral part hits, the moon will be below the horizon. (For an explanation of the penumbral and umbral regions, scroll down to the end of this section)
- Verdict: Tough luck! Nothing.
- For Japan, North-East China, Korea, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Tibet, Eastern Australia and New Zealand: If you stay here, you’ll be lucky enough to witness the eclipse for a good length of time. You can watch the penumbral shadow creeping over and then the umbral shadow dimming the moon an hour afterwards. The moon will be near the horizon and thus, you’ll not be able to see this spectacle for too long! You might see a half-visible moon setting on the horizon, which is a spectacle in itself. (Do click photos!)
- Verdict: Lucky, but only just.
- For India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, rest of China, Islands in the Indian Ocean, Australia: You are at the right spot, almost the best in the world. The penumbra will hit at about 11:00 PM to 11:30 PM Indian Standard Time (about 0600 GMT; NASA reports 0623 GMT). The moon will start getting dimmer, while still rising in the sky. The totality (i.e. when the moon is totally eclipsed) will occur at about 2:00 AM, when the moon is right up above your heads in the middle of the sky! You’ll be able to see excellent features of the night sky, which you might have otherwise missed (wait for the next section of this article). Take a trip out of a metro city, if you live in one, and visit the suburbs for the night. Make sure you sling along your Digital SLR you’re going to regret not brining one.
- Verdict: Great luck! Enjoy.
- For Eastern Europe, Middle East, UAE, most of Eastern Russia, Egypt and any Island near the eastern coast of Africa, like Madagascar: Folks, you’ve got the best seats in the house. If the skies are clear, you’ll be witness to the spectacle in all its eclectic glory for the longest possible! The eclipse will set in right after moonrise. Totality will be seen when the moon is right overhead, or just about there at about 1:00 AM at night. The eclipse will end a couple of hours before moonset. The European cities of Vienna, Oslo, Paris and Madrid etc. will witness a grand show, but it might be slightly marred by the intense light pollution! Get to a suitably dark place it’ll be worth the effort. All-in-all it should be a great show. Popcorn and digital camera are recommended as accompaniments (along with a blanket, maybe?).
- Verdict: Cannot get any better than this on Earth or, for that matter, anywhere in the Universe.
- For most parts of South America (especially the western part) and entire North America: Hate to say this, but you guys are tremendously unlucky on this one. The lunar eclipse will happen with your backs turned to it, literally! The moon will be below the horizon when it happens and you will not be able to see anything! Tough luck.
- Verdict: Alas! Seats are outside the theatre hall!
Note about Umbra and Penumbra: The shadow cast by the Earth (or by anything provided that the source of light is a large, extended object) consists of two parts the inner darker one, called the Umbra, and the peripheral lighter one, called the Penumbra. The Penumbral portion has diffused light sneaking in, while the Umbral portion is extremely dark.
Here’s a nice map prepared by NASA to help you get going!
What to watch out for and photos:
As the moon fades, stars, which would be otherwise invisible, start becoming visible. The night sky gets transformed! At totality, you should be able to see a great band of light just behind the moon, which is the Milky Way. As the eclipse proceeds, watch how the different stars, especially the Milky Way, fade out of visible existence, dominated by the moon once more.
Tomorrow the moon will cross the constellation of Ophiuchus, lying roughly midway between Scorpio and Sagittarius.
At the darkest, the moon will be slightly visible, a reddish disc glowing with about 10,000 less brightness than normal. Set your camera for a relatively low shutter speed, small f-stops (or, a large aperture), get the best zoom you can afford, set it up on a tripod if you wish and you’re ready to go! Enjoy the photos below clicked on previous occasions.
For the records, this will be the second longest lunar eclipse this century, lasting for 100 minutes, overshadowed (pun intended!) in duration only by the one on 16th July 2000 by a mere 3 minutes. It will be the third longest ever, the second longest lasting for 101 minutes, just a minute more than the upcoming one!
The next long lunar eclipse will take place on July 27th, 2018. The next lunar eclipse is much closer and is due on December 10th, 2011.
Enjoy the moon getting gulped up! If someone attaches any superstitious non-sense to this event, ignore them. Wish you a happy eclipse watching!