Sky Got Red Moon: Get Ready To Catch The First Total Lunar Eclipse Of The Decade

·4-min read
On 26 May (Wed), weather permitting, Singaporeans should be able to see the Super Flower Blood Moon.
On 26 May (Wed), weather permitting, Singaporeans should be able to see the Super Flower Blood Moon.
On 26 May (Wed), weather permitting, Singaporeans should be able to see the Super Flower Blood Moon. | Photo: Unsplash/Martin Adams

First, let's address the name of the moon that we'll be anticipating in our skies on Wednesday - the Super Flower Blood Moon, the name of the first total lunar eclipse of the decade.

No, it's not some martial arts move that will make your heart explode and cause you to bleed from every orifice. It's a little more poetic than that, and much less violent:

  1. "Super" refers to the phenomenon where the moon appears particularly large because it will be at its perigee (the closest approach to the earth on its orbit).

  2. "Flower" reflects spring's abundance of flowers.

  3. "Blood" depicts the moon's crimson appearance, a result of the sun's rays being blocked by the Earth, and casting a reddish glow on it instead.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the sun and the moon.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the sun and the moon.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the sun and the moon. | Photo: 123RF

What's the difference between a lunar eclipse and solar eclipse? It's all in the name: During a lunar eclipse, the moon appears dark - because Earth is in the way. During a solar eclipse, the sun appears dark - because the moon is in the way. (And now you too can sound clever in casual conversation - you're welcome!)

Lunar eclipses occur twice (sometimes thrice) a year - but not all of them are total eclipses. Some are partial (when only a portion of the Moon enters Earth's umbra - the fully shaded inner region of a shadow), while others are penumbral (when only the more diffuse outer shadow of Earth - the penumbra - falls on the moon's face).

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The last time a blood moon appeared in Singapore skies was on 28 Jul 2018. The momentous event marked the moon being covered in shadow for the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century.

According to NASA, the totality of that lunar eclipse (when the moon retained its red colour) lasted for about an hour and 42 minutes. The moon eventually spent a total of nearly four hours in the Earth's umbral shadow.

If you miss the total lunar eclipse on Wednesday, the next time Singaporeans can see a total lunar eclipse will be on 7 Sep 2025, according to this forecast by Time and Date.

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Photographers have captured the amazing phenomenon in all its glory with the help of sophisticated cameras and a lot of patience. But what if you don't have all that fancy equipment?

We spoke with amateur astronomer and father of four Jeremy Ratnam (who lives in Punggol) on how he is preparing for the event, and how Singaporeans can capture this marvel on their mobile phones.

Amateur astronomer Jeremy Ratnam has his Pentax 8X40 binoculars and Sony RX100V camera ready to capture the event.
Amateur astronomer Jeremy Ratnam has his Pentax 8X40 binoculars and Sony RX100V camera ready to capture the event.
Amateur astronomer Jeremy Ratnam has his Pentax 8X40 binoculars and Sony RX100V camera ready to capture the event. | Photo: Jeremy Ratnam

How will you (and your family) be preparing for this major event?

Unfortunately during this P2HA we can't go out as a family to view the eclipse together, but I will be heading out with my eldest son, Kevin, to take pictures of the eclipse with my Sony RX100V.

Pro tip: During a total lunar eclipse, If you need to take a picture with an ordinary camera, make sure you set the shutter to 5-10secs, and your ISO at 400 or more. When the moon starts to show a little light (as a result of reflection from the Sun) then it’s time to reduce the shutter speed to 2 secs or less (meaning a fast shutter speed).

If you have a DSLR, play around with the shutter speed a night before the eclipse, so you can gauge how much speed you’d need with an almost full moon.

We don’t have fancy equipment. Mobile phone can or not?

Mobile phones are going to be useful especially during the total eclipse phase. Because the moon isn’t reflecting any or a little sunlight. That makes it easier for your camera phone to take a picture without the image completely flaring up.

What's the best way to view and experience the Super Flower Blood Moon in Singapore amid this pandemic?

Head out safely to face an unobstructed view of the eastern half of the sky, where you should see an eclipsed moon rising just after 7pm.

It might be a little difficult at first, but if there is no cloud cover, you should be able to pick out an orange-tinged moon, but it will be very faint. It should get better as the evening progresses.

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JEREMY RATNAM · SEEING STARS for FRIDAY 21/MAY 2021

Click the "Play" button above to listen to Jeremy's podcast on the eclipse.

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