North Texas night owls will be able to view a total lunar eclipse this Sunday night.
Levent Gurdemir, director of the planetarium at The University of Texas at Arlington, offered tips for how to watch the spectacular event.
Beginning a few minutes before 9:30 p.m. on May 15, onlookers can witness the moon’s slow transition from light to dark, which should peak within 90 minutes, Gurdemir said. During the eclipse, the moon will enter Earth’s shadow, blocking the lunar surface from direct sunlight. But, Gurdemir said, the moon will not completely disappear from the sky.
“Earth’s atmosphere acts like a prism, separating sunlight into its colors from red to blue,” he said. “Red light refracted by our atmosphere still reaches the moon, casting a dim red glow over the lunar surface.”
Historians have marked eclipses’ red pigment since the days of Alexander the Great, theorizing about the shadowed moons’ supernatural connection to human activity. In the Battle of Gaugamela between the armies of Alexander and Emperor Darius III of Persia, a preceding eclipse predicted Macedon’s victory. According to accompanying astrologers, its crimson display forecasted the bloodshed of opposing forces.
Though often called blood moons due to their orange-red hue, Gurdemir said there is nothing ominous about this week’s eclipse.
“It will be a beautiful evening to look up to the skies,” he said. “The night will begin with a bright, full moon. Then, North Texans will have plenty of time to view the eclipse as the moon slowly loses and regains its illumination.”
The moon will be full Sunday night and is known as the flower moon in Native American traditions, due to its slightly larger than average size and unusual proximity to Earth.
Gurdemir advised stargazers to watch for another cosmic wonder this month. In the hours before dawn, four planets appear in a line in the southeastern sky. Through early July, early-risers can catch a glimpse of Mars, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter without the use of special equipment.