Later this month, the moon will put on a fantastic display with a name to match: the Super Flower Blood Moon Eclipse. Early in the morning on May 26, the spectacle will be visible across the western half of North America, Doyle Rice reports for USA Today.
This month’s full moon will be the first total lunar eclipse in about two and a half years, according to NASA. The event gets each part of its name from a different source: “flower” comes from this being the full moon in May, when many flowers are blooming. The moon is considered “super” because it is at its closest point to Earth in its orbit, which makes it look slightly larger in the sky than usual. And it’s a “blood” moon because of the rusty hue that comes over the moon as it moves through Earth’s shadow.
“People call it the Blood Moon, but that is not a scientific term,” says University of Southern California astronomer Edward Rhodes to Inverse’ Passant Rabie. “There’s a scientific reason for why it looks reddish and that’s because the atmosphere of the Earth bends some of the sunlight in just such an angle that the red wavelength illuminates the Moon’s surface.”
The same light-bending by Earth’s atmosphere that makes the moon turn red also creates colorful sunrises and sunsets on Earth, per NASA. But because the moon’s orbit is tilted, it doesn’t line up in Earth’s shadow every month.
In Colorado, the eclipse will begin at about 3:45 a.m., when the moon enters the outer edge of Earth’s shadow, and reach peak eclipse at 5:18 a.m. local time, reports Chris Spears for CBSN Denver. The eclipse will be completely over by 7:51 a.m. in Denver.
The eclipse will not be especially visible to people living east of Texas because the moon will be too low in the sky, per the Old Farmer’s Almanac. But people living in the Pacific and Mountain time zones, as well as Hawaii and Alaska, will be able to see the full eclipse for 15 minutes. Residents of Hawaii will get the best view, as the moon will be high in the sky when the brief eclipse occurs, reports USA Today.
“This particular eclipse, the reason that the total phase is so brief is that the north edge of the Moon’s disk is just skirting the inner edge of the inner portion of the Earth’s shadow,” says Rhodes to Inverse.
Other lunar eclipses can for hours if the moon passes through a wider swath of shadow. In the next two years, there will be four partial and full lunar eclipses, per USA Today. The next total lunar eclipse will be in May 2022.
This month’s full moon is also special it will be the closest full moon to Earth this year, about 95 miles closer to Earth than in April. That means that May’s full moon will be the last and brightest supermoon of 2021.