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Rare total-lunar eclipse brings red moon to Albertans on May 15

TELUS World of Science offers telescope-viewing opportunities to see eclipse (if weather cooperates).
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See the total lunar eclipse this Sunday, a first to be seen in Alberta this year. Photo submitted.

Telus World of Science, Edmonton is calling all moon-watchers: On Sunday, May 15, Albertans can see a red moon, or maybe no moon rising at all. Neither an illusion, nor an atmospheric effect, the rare celestial event is a total lunar eclipse, the first to be seen in Alberta this year.

For Albertans, the partial phases of the lunar eclipse will already be in progress as the moon rises. The following are times for the event: Edmonton moonrise: 9:22 p.m. MDT Penumbral eclipse begins: 7:31 p.m. MDT (not visible) Partial (umbral) eclipse begins: 8:27 p.m. MDT in progress as moon rises Total eclipse begins: 9:28 p.m. MDT visible (Alt. 1°, SE) Mid-eclipse 10:11 p.m. MDT visible (Alt. 5°, SE) Total eclipse ends: 10:54 p.m. MDT visible (Alt. 8°, SE) Partial (umbral) eclipse ends: 11:55 p.m. MDT visible (Alt. 13°, SE) Penumbral eclipse ends: 12:51 a.m. MDT visible (Alt. 15°SE)

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon travels through the Earth’s shadow in space, and only with the right alignment between the sun, the earth, and the moon. During the eclipse, the moon will enter the earth’s dark (umbral) shadow, taking on a dark red or rusty appearance. Although no direct sunlight reaches the moon during the umbral eclipse, the moon is illuminated by a small amount of long wavelength (red) sunlight refracting through the earth’s atmosphere. After the partial (umbral) eclipse ends, the full moon of May, known as the flower moon, will again be shining in the night sky.

Unlike a solar eclipse, the upcoming lunar eclipse requires no special viewing equipment, and is entirely safe to watch with the naked eye. Telescopes and binoculars will offer greater details of the moon but are not required to view a lunar eclipse. Since the moon will already be rising before the eclipse begins, a location that provides an unobstructed view of the Southeastern horizon will offer the best views. Individuals in apartments with a clear view to the southeast will have an advantage.

For those wishing to watch the lunar eclipse through telescopes, TELUS World of Science – Edmonton, and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Edmonton Centre) will be set up in Coronation Park from 10:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., however, watching the eclipse elsewhere is recommended as the trees in Coronation Park may hinder views. The upcoming lunar eclipse is weather dependant and may not be visible in overcast skies. Dress for the weather and if clear skies permit, enjoy this rare lunar event.