May’s full moon is treating stargazers to a special event this year! Whether you’re a photographer, astronomy lover, lunar witch, selenophile, or just looking for something to do, mark your calendar for the early morning of May 26, 2021 to see a lunar eclipse pass over the year’s biggest supermoon.
What is a Lunar Eclipse?
Solar and lunar eclipses occur when the shadow of a celestial body falls on either the earth or the moon. In the case of a solar eclipse, the moon either fully or partially blocks out the sun, casting a shadow on the earth. But a lunar eclipse, as we’ll see later this month, happens when the Earth is between the moon and sun, causing Earth’s shadow to fully or partially cover the moon for a short period of time.
During a total lunar eclipse, the moon first enters the outer edge of Earth’s shadow called the penumbra before slipping into the umbra, which is the darkest part of Earth’s shadow. During this time, the umbra casts an unusual reddish hue on the moon. This phenomenon is how the term “blood moon” came to be. The moon will move through the penumbra again before slipping free of the Earth’s shadow and returning to normal.
When to See the Lunar Eclipse
Stargazers in western North and South America as well as eastern Asia and Oceania will have a view of the total lunar eclipse in the early hours of the 26th of May. Those located to the east of the Mississippi River in the United States will be able to see a partial lunar eclipse.
Note: the moon will be low in the sky during the eclipse. Your best bet is to find a high vantage point clear of trees or buildings on the horizon if you want to get a good view.
- 4:46 A.M. EDT (1:46 A.M. PDT) – The eclipse begins as the moon enters the penumbra (outer shadow edge)
- 5:45 A.M. EDT (2:45 A.M. PDT) – The moon will reach the umbra (darkest part of the shadow)
- 8:53 A.M. EDT (5:53 A.M. PDT) – The moon passes back into the penumbra
- 9:51 A.M. EDT (6:51 A.M. PDT) – The eclipse ends as the moon leaves the penumbra
What is a Supermoon?
A supermoon happens when the moon’s closest orbit to the Earth coincides with the full moon, making the moon appear to be closer (and therefore larger) and brighter.
This year, two official supermoons are listed in the Farmer’s Almanac, although other sources claim we’ll have four supermoons because the other two are within 90% of the moon’s closest approach to Earth. Whether you’re counting two or four for 2021, there’s no denying that the May Flower Moon is going to be the closest supermoon, although the distance isn’t too far from April’s Pink Moon. While May’s moon will technically be bigger and brighter, it won’t look much different to the naked eye than April’s breathtaking supermoon.
When to See the May 2021 Super Flower Moon at its Peak
Well, here’s the bad news: May’s Flower Moon will reach peak illumination at 7:14 A.M. (EDT) on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. That means it’s going to be below the horizon at its peak. But you can still get a good view of the Flower Moon on Tuesday night or Wednesday night. Even if it’s not at its true maximum illumination, it’s still going to be a stunning sight! And the lunar eclipse happening early on Wednesday morning will be a treat as well.
If you want to make sure you catch the full moon at its peak, you can use the Old Farmer’s Almanac moonrise and moonset calculator to determine when is the best time to see the moon based on your location across the US and Canada.
Don’t miss the other full moons this year! Here’s the schedule of every full moon in 2021, along with each moon’s name and how it earned its moniker.
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