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UW Astronomer: Wyoming In Perfect Location To See May Lunar Eclipse; Longest Lasting In 7 Years

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A lunar eclipse lasting longer than any to be seen in the next seven years will be visible next month, a University of Wyoming astronomer told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

The “Super Flower Blood Moon” can be seen in full totality around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 15, and will be visible for about 90 minutes.

Max Gilbraith, director of the UW planetarium, told Cowboy State Daily that this particular lunar eclipse will be the longest lasting one to occur until at least 2029.

“One of the delightful things about a lunar eclipse is you can really see them throughout the whole hemisphere,” Gilbraith said Thursday. “Basically, once the sun sets for us in Wyoming, we’ll be seeing the moon rise. We’re in a perfect time zone for this eclipse.”

While “Super Flower Blood Moon” sounds spooky and like something a comic book villain would utter, there is actually a reason behind each word in the nickname.

“Super” refers to the moon being in perigee, meaning it is at the closest point to Earth in its orbit, which makes it appear larger and brighter in the sky. Gilbraith said the moon will be about 10% closer to the earth during the eclipse when compared to normal full moons.

“Full” describes the phase the moon is in, meaning its entire shape can be fully seen from Earth. “Flower” refers to the moon being seen in May, the time when “May flowers” appear after a month of “April showers.”

Finally, the “blood” description harkens back to the moon’s red appearance, which occurs as it passes through the Earth’s shadow.

“The sky is blue and lunar eclipses are red for the same reason,” Gilbraith said. “The sky is blue because the radiation light is shorter in wavelength than the red light and scatters more easily in the atmosphere. Whereas the red longer wavelength bends and refracts through the Earth’s atmosphere. This is why sunsets are red.”

A lunar eclipse lasting as long as this particular Super Flower Blood Moon has not been seen since 2018, Gilbraith noted.

“The moon actually gets brighter with this eclipse as it exits totality,” he said. “You’ve got have patience if you want to see the whole thing, but it’s beautiful.”

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