Ready to catch 2021’s first lunar eclipse?

Tomorrow, we get to witness a bit of magic in the night sky. 

To be fair, it’s more about science than magic. But the awe-inspiring view will be nothing short of enchanting. 

2021’s first eclipse is set to play out on Wednesday (May 26), coinciding with Buddh Purnima, the birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha.

Sky gazers are excited because it’s the
first total lunar eclipse in two years, while the more spiritually inclined are marvelling at the overlap with the festival, which in some countries marks the Buddha’s enlightenment and nirvana after death.

If you plan to catch the eclipse tomorrow, here’s everything you need to know: 

May 26 lunar eclipse: Time in India

The total lunar eclipse will begin tomorrow at 2.17 pm IST and end by 7.19pm IST, lasting for 5 hours and 2 minutes. If you’re in West Bengal, Odisha, the northeastern states or the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, you should be able to see its ending. The best visibility, according to NASA, will be in countries surrounding the Pacific Ocean. 

NASA diagram showing degrees of visibility for total lunar eclipse on May 26, 2021

Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Youtube

Why is the eclipse being called a ‘super blood moon’?

Blood moon’ isn’t a scientific term, but is popularly used to describe the reddish colour on our moon when it passes through Earth’s shadow during an eclipse. It’s expected the same will happen tomorrow. 

The red tint will come from sunlight filtering through Earth’s atmosphere. The ‘super’ part is because the moon will also be at its closest point to us in orbit tomorrow (called ‘perigee’), making it appear bigger than usual. Astrophotographers are especially thrilled during perigee, as it makes for some dramatic photographs:

Phases of a super blood moon in a long exposure stacked photo in colorado usa

A Super Blood Moon’s phases, shot above the Rocky Mountains, USA

50 images of a lunar eclipse in 2017, stacked into one photo by a German photographer

50 images of a lunar eclipse in 2017, combined into one photo. Credit: ESO/P. Horálek/Wikimedia Commons

Are there more eclipses this year?

You bet! In case you miss tomorrow’s display, you can still catch a partial lunar eclipse from India on November 19 this year. 

An annular solar eclipse (where the moon covers the Sun’s centre to form a ‘ring of fire’) will also be taking place on June 10, but it won’t be visible from India. Same goes for the total solar eclipse on December 4—it will only be visible in the southern parts of the southern hemisphere, which omits India. 

After tomorrow, your next opportunity to see a
total lunar eclipse will be on November 8, 2022. Unless you want to wait that long, make sure to set an alarm ASAP!

Feature image credit: Hubble ESA/Flickr