'Super blood wolf moon' eclipse to darken skies

Last year’s “super blue moon” total lunar eclipse.
Marco Ugarte  
AP

But because Earth's atmosphere extends about 50 miles up, during a total eclipse, although the Moon is in shadow, there is a ring around our planet through which the Sun's rays still pass.

In the US, the eclipse will begin relatively early Sunday evening, making it easier for children to stay up and enjoy the show. Total lunar eclipses only happen when Earth's shadow entirely engulfs the moon's face, and are relatively rare compared with their partial and penumbral counterparts-after this weekend the next one will not occur until May 26, 2021. The more particulate or pollution in the atmosphere, the redder the moon appears.

The reason for their rarity is the moon's orbit, which is tilted some 5 degrees off-kilter from Earth's orbital plane, or ecliptic; if the two were perfectly aligned, a total lunar eclipse would occur monthly, each time the moon was full.

When and how can you see the Super Wolf Blood Moon?

The science centre will be offering extended hours Sunday to ring in the total lunar eclipse, the first of its kind fully visible in Edmonton since 2015. Unlike solar eclipses, the lunar varieties are safe to watch.

The "wolf moon" name is a Native American moniker, according to almanac.com, because of the sound of howling hungry wolves outside villages traditionally in the month of January. "A blood colored moon is created (by) ash from fires and volcanoes, . dust storms and pollution all filtering sunlight as it scatters around our world".

Total lunar eclipses offer some interesting perspective, astronomers say.

You can find more information on Sunday night's viewing here. It is the first total eclipse visible in North America in three years. In all, assuming good weather conditions, this shady little drama will have a potential viewing audience of some 2.8 billion people. You will be able to see the eclipse with the naked eye, but if you have binoculars, take them out of the drawer for a better view. The last time New Yorkers could gaze so high at a totally eclipsed moon was in 1797, when John Adams was president; the next opportunity won't come until 2113. Sunday's observatory event is all-ages and doors open at 8:30 p.m. Ticket price is by donation only. Some sunlight reaches the Earth's atmosphere, which envelops the moon and gives it the rich colour.

So, to recap: The moon will be closer to Earth than usual (a "super moon").

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