On June 15 there will be a total lunar eclipse visible from Australia, Indonesia, southern Japan, India, a large area of Asia, Africa, Europe and the eastern part of South America. This is expected to be one of the darkest eclipses ever (with a magnitude of 1.7), second only to the July 2000 eclipse.
Sadly it won’t be visible to viewers in North America, but much of the rest of the world should be treated to a wonderful show as the Moon slips into Earth’s shadow. Gradually growing darker from its western limb inwards, the Moon then gains a bluish cast which transitions to orange then deep red as it moves into light passing through the edge of Earth’s atmosphere (the same as what makes the colors of a sunset) and then eventually going almost completely dark before the process then reverses itself from the opposite side.
The entire eclipse will last 5 hours and 39 minutes, with a totality duration of 1 hour and 40 minutes. It will begin at 17:23 UT.
Viewers in Australia and eastern Asia will see the eclipse begin as the Moon is setting while those in Europe and South America will see it as the Moon is rising. Only locations in India, eastern Africa, the Middle East and western Asia will experience the entire eclipse.
This is the first of two total lunar eclipses in 2011; the next will take place on December 10.
I saw my first total lunar eclipse last December, which took place on the night of the winter solstice (December 21). It really was an amazing event to watch… in totality the Moon was colored a deep coppery red and really just seemed to be suspended among the stars – it felt like you could just reach up and pluck it from the sky! If you are in any of the areas where this next one is visible I encourage you to check it out for yourself!
Read more about lunar eclipses on MrEclipse.com.
Image: Jason Major