This month of May will see some extraordinary lunar activity in the night sky—for not only will it herald the biggest, brightest supermoon of the year, but also the spectacle of a full lunar eclipse, simultaneously.
May’s full moon, called the Blood Moon or Flower Moon, will appear largest on May 26, and will actually take on a red hue—due to the eclipse.
A full moon becomes a “supermoon” when it appears at its perigee (its closest point to the Earth along its elliptical orbit). A supermoon may appear up to 7 percent larger than a normal full moon.
The May full moon’s Native American name, “Flower Moon,” was so dubbed after the seasonal flowers which bloom during this period, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Additionally, the Cree Indians called May’s full moon the Budding Moon and Leaf Budding Moon, referencing the seasonal flourishing of flora; as well as Egg-Laying Moon and Frog Moon, denoting wildlife procreation during springtime.
This supermoon also happens to coincide with a full lunar eclipse, where the Earth crosses directly between the Moon and Sun, and will cast a shadow so dense it will cause a copper-red hue across the lunar surface—hence the name, Blood Moon.
The only light that will reach the lunar surface (to be reflected back to observers on Earth) is that which is filtered through Earth’s atmosphere, Digital Camera World explains. The Sun’s short-wavelength blue light will be filtered out by particles in the Earth’s atmosphere, while longer-wavelength red and orange light will be able to pass through.
That’s what gives the spectacle its evocative red hue.
The supermoon will appear largest at 7:14 a.m. EDT on May 26, lingering close to, or below, the horizon; thus, the Almanac recommends stealing your glimpse of the rare celestial sight the night before—from a vantage point with unobstructed views of the horizon.
Eclipse enthusiasts will have to rise early to catch the event. The fuzzy outer edge of the earth’s shadow (known as the penumbra) will begin to cross the moon at 4:46 a.m. EDT, and the moon will be at its darkest, deepest red about two and a half hours later. Clear skies permitting, the eclipse will be visible from western North America, western South America, eastern Asia, and Oceania.
If geography or circumstances prohibit you from watching the eclipse from your locale, fear not; Time and Date will be livestreaming the event on YouTube so that almost anyone can catch it!
Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the time of the total eclipse. The total eclipse occurred about two and a half hours after the beginning of the eclipse. The Epoch Times regrets the error.