Some Earthlings will be able to witness a total lunar eclipse on the night of Sunday to Monday, a rare celestial sight during which the night star loses its luster and gradually turns red.
The eclipse will be visible from parts of the American, European and African continents between moonrise and moonset.
This phenomenon occurs approximately twice a year, when the Sun, Earth and Moon are in perfect alignment and the Moon is in its full phase.
The star slips into the Earth’s shadow, which then shields the sun’s rays and gradually loses its white glow.
But he doesn’t get out of it all: the Earth continues to send moonlight from the sun, the rays that take on a reddish tint through the process of “atmospheric refraction,” explains Florent Delively, of the Paris-PSL Observatory, to AFP.
“During an eclipse, the Earth can only illuminate the moon by re-emitting red rays,” the astronomer continues.
“It’s very interesting to see a bright white moon that turns red over the minutes,” he adds. The phenomenon that is visible with binoculars, as with the naked eye, can give “fantastic pictures” if the weather conditions are good.
The eclipse will last about five hours, and its total phase – when the star is completely in the Earth’s shadow – is just over an hour.
The eclipse will be fully visible in South America, Central America, and over the eastern part of North America.
In mainland France, the eclipse will be total at the end of the night: the lunar disk will become completely red. Note that the moon will set during this total phase, at the same time as sunrise.
The next total lunar eclipse is scheduled for November 2022 in the central Pacific Ocean. In mainland France, the last date dates back to January 2019 and the next will not occur until 2029.
The lunar eclipse showed that the Earth was spherical “from ancient times,” assures the astronomer. “On the surface of the lunar disk, the boundary between the shadow and the part illuminated by the Sun is slightly curved: this is the projection of the Earth’s rotation.”
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