A rare blood-red supermoon and harvest moon eclipse will delight Saskatchewan Sunday skywatchers.
A combined lunar eclipse and supermoon hasn’t happened since 1982 and won’t happen again until 2033, according to NASA. This is the second total lunar eclipse of 2015, but the last one visible in Saskatchewan until 2018.
Saskatchewan astronomy buffs will miss the first few minutes of the penumbral stage of the eclipse because the moon will still be below the horizon. The partial eclipse will begin at 7:07 p.m. in Regina in Saskatoon on the eastern horizon while the total eclipse will start 8:11, peak at 8:47 and end at 9:23.
The best viewing spots will be to the southeast of any lights and tall buildings and trees because the eclipse won’t be very high in the sky.
The University of Saskatchewan Observatory is offering free viewings of the eclipse between 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. The observatory is located on campus, one block north of College Drive at 108 Wiggins Road.
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Regina Centre is hosting a special viewing party at the Kalium Observatory at the Saskatchewan Science Centre between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Admission is free and you enter at the doors to the IMAX Theatre. Another group will be meeting at Wascana Park to watch the eclipse.
Shane Ludtke is a member of the RASC and he will definitely be watching the skies on Sunday. He says all three events on their own are fairly common, but this time they are lining up all at the same time.
“What happens during the lunar eclipse is the moon sort of passes behind the earth and the earth casts it’s shadow onto the moon and we can witness that transit across the face of the moon throughout the evening,” Ludtke said.
A harvest moon is the full moon that falls closest to the autumn equinox, which occurred on Sept. 23, and is also a time when many crops are harvested. It is also called a blood moon because the moon’s close proximity to the horizon and angle to the the earth’s atmosphere distorts the colour, giving it a reddish tinge. The supermoon is harder to see, but the moon is slightly closer to earth, making it about eight per cent larger than normal.
“What I find really interesting about any kind of eclipse is you really get to see a lot of different solar system bodies in motion,” Ludtke said. “As you are watching the shadow go across the moon, you really get a sense for all of these large bodies that are traveling through space, and I find that fascinating to really think about.”
For those who don’t go to the observatories Ludtke encourages anyone to simply drive a little ways outside the city to find a darker sky. He said Saskatchewan is one of the better places on the continent to watch the skies because there isn’t much light pollution.