The Moon will move completely into the Earth’s shadow – a spectacle known as a total lunar eclipse – this Sunday (September 27). For southwestern Ontario, this will be the last chance to observe a total lunar eclipse until January 2019.

Western University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, in collaboration with the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX), the Canadian Lunar Research Network (CLRN) and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s London Centre, is hosting a public viewing and information night during the eclipse at the Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory to enjoy the celestial event.

“Observing a lunar eclipse does not require any tools or instruments and can be enjoyed by anybody from any location with a clear sky,” says Jan Cami, an Associate Professor in Western University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. “If you would however like to look at the eclipsed Moon through a variety of telescopes, learn more about the Moon or about eclipses, and talk to professional and amateur astronomers, this is a great opportunity.”

The special event will feature space experts giving presentation on lunar eclipses throughout the evening, while various telescopes will be pointed to the Moon. Western researchers and scientists, as well as a number of local astronomers, will also be available for questions and assistance. Entrance is free.

The evening starts with a bright Full Moon rising at 7:06 p.m. This Full Moon will be even bigger and brighter than usual because the Moon will be as close to the Earth as its elongated orbit allows – making this weekend’s Full Moon a ‘Supermoon.’ Although the change is quite noticeable if you compare pictures of a Supermoon to a regular Full Moon, chances are that the naked eye will not notice the Moon being about 14 per cent larger than normal.

The lunar eclipse show really starts at 9:07 p.m. with the beginning of the partial phase, where the Moon slowly moves into the Earth’s shadow. Gradually, more and more of the moon will be in the darkness. At 10:11 p.m., the Moon will be completely in the Earth’s shadow and this marks the beginning of the total phase.

During totality, there is no direct sunlight that can reach the Moon because the Earth is in the way. However, the Moon will not be completely dark. Sunlight that passes through the Earth’s atmosphere gets bent and turns red, a process that causes sunsets on Earth to be red and give the setting Sun weird shapes. Some of this bent red sunlight reaches the Moon and is reflected back to the night side of the Earth where it can be seen.

This is the reason why an eclipsed Moon often has a dim coppery glow often called a ‘Blood Moon.’ If you were standing on the Moon during a total lunar eclipse, the view would be spectacular: a thin, red glowing atmosphere would surround the entire night side of the Earth. The total phase will end at 11:23 p.m., when the Moon stars coming out of the Earth’s shadow and the ensuing partial phase essentially mirrors what came before the total phase.

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