Lunar eclipse visible from the UK

On Wednesday 21st February, observers in the UK will have the opportunity of seeing a total lunar eclipse, which occurs around the time of a full moon when the Sun, Earth and Moon are all lined up. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves completely into the shadow (or UMBRA) of the Earth, where no direct light can reach it from the Sun. However, the Earth's atmosphere can refract (bend) and filter the light, causing the Moon to glow with a dark reddish or orangey colour. Whilst lunar eclipses can occur a couple of times a year, this event will be the last total eclipse until December 2010.

Lunar eclipse map
Lunar eclipse map showing the times of the eclipse.
Credit: NASA

During next week's eclipse, totality is scheduled to last for around 50 minutes, but will sadly be at a very anti-social time of the morning. A partial eclipse, where the leading edge of Moon first enters Umbra, will begin at 01:43am on Feb 21 and end a few hours later at 05:09am. The total eclipse (all of the Moon in the Umbra) starts at 03:01am and ends at 03:51am, with the moment of greatest eclipse occuring at 03:26am.

For those still out on half-term, it many be worthwhile staying up late (or waking early) to get a glimpse of this extraordinary event, but remember to wrap up warm because it's going to be cold out there. Lunar eclipses do not require any special equipment to observe, and are therefore ideal for all astronomy enthusiasts. However, if you can borrow some binoculars you will be able to magnify the view and watch shadows racing across the surface of the Moon.