Total lunar eclipse May 2022: how to see Blood Moon eclipse in the UK – and when is it?

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Unlike a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse is absolutely safe to see without the use of special equipment

A six-image combination shows a total “Blood Moon” lunar eclipse in Bishkek late July 27, 2018 (Photo by VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP via Getty Images)

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Next week, the moon will be transformed with a red hue into an incredible blood moon eclipse that will grace the skies next week.

This total lunar eclipse will be the first of the 2022 eclipses to occur this year.

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That’s all you need to know about the eclipse — and how to see the natural phenomenon.

What is a total lunar eclipse?

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There are two types of eclipses that can occur – a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth’s shadow is obscured by the moon, while a solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks the view of the sun.

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NASA says: “Lunar eclipses occur at the full moon stage.

“When the Earth is positioned squarely between the Moon and the Sun, the Earth’s shadow falls on the Moon’s surface, obscuring it and sometimes coloring the Moon’s surface a striking red over the course of a few hours.

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“Each lunar eclipse is visible from half the earth.”

These types of solar eclipses are often referred to as blood moon eclipses because the moon is bathed in red during the event.

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People gather to watch a “blood moon” eclipse in Melbourne on July 28, 2018 (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

There are three different types of lunar eclipses that can occur:

  • A total lunar eclipse in which the moon moves into the inner part of the Earth’s shadow (the umbra). Some of the sunlight that penetrates Earth’s atmosphere reaches the moon’s surface, which dimly illuminates it—the more dust or clouds there are in Earth’s atmosphere during the eclipse, the redder the moon appears
  • A partial lunar eclipse that occurs when an imperfect alignment of the Sun, Earth, and Moon causes the Moon to pass through only part of Earth’s umbra – the shadow waxes and then disappears without ever fully covering the Moon
  • Penumbral eclipses, when the Moon passes through Earth’s penumbra or the faint outer portion of its shadow – the Moon dimmers so easily that it can be difficult to notice unless you’re specifically looking for it

When is it?

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In the early morning hours of May 16, the Moon enters Earth’s shadow in the western hemisphere, creating a total lunar eclipse – the first since May 2021.

It will be visible throughout South America, most of North America, and parts of Europe and Africa.

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This is the eclipse schedule as listed by the Royal Observatorybased in Greenwich, London – the timing of the eclipse may differ by a few minutes in other parts of the UK:

  • 2:23 am: The penumbral eclipse begins – the Moon begins to enter the Earth’s penumbra and begins to darken
  • 3:27 am: The partial eclipse begins – the Moon is beginning to enter Earth’s umbra, exiting its penumbra and will darken considerably
  • 4:29 am: The total eclipse begins – the moon has fully entered the umbra of the earth and is beginning to turn red
A picture shows the full moon during a “Blood Moon” eclipse next to the Church of Venzolasca on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica on July 27, 2018 (Photo by PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP via Getty Images)
  • 5:06 a.m.: The maximum solar eclipse – this is when the moon is closest to the center of the umbra of the earth
  • 5:53 am: The total eclipse ends – the Moon begins to leave Earth’s umbra and return to its penumbra, losing its red color more slowly
  • 6:55 a.m.: The partial solar eclipse ends – the moon has now completely left the umbra of the earth and loses its red color completely
  • 7:50 am: Penumbral eclipse ends

While the total eclipse will last more than five hours, UK viewers will only be able to see the eclipse from 2:32 a.m. to 5:10 a.m. as the moon will have set below the horizon by the end of that period.

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The optimal viewing time for those watching the sky in the UK is between 4:29am and 5:06am.

The next total lunar eclipse will be on November 8, 2022 but will not be visible from the UK.

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How can I see it in the UK?

While UK residents cannot see every part of the eclipse, you can still watch the lunar event at its peak when the moon has turned red.

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Lunar eclipses are much safer to watch than their solar eclipse counterparts. While you should never look directly at a solar eclipse, it is safe to see a lunar eclipse with the naked eye without requiring any special equipment.

The moon enters maximum solar eclipse on September 28, 2015 in Glastonbury, England (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Since you can look directly at a lunar eclipse, you can use binoculars or a telescope to zoom in, but they are not essential.

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All you really need to see a lunar eclipse is clear skies and a good view of the moon from your location.

Ideally, you should choose an observing area with the least amount of light pollution to ensure an unobstructed view of the eclipse.

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