A blood moon total lunar eclipse is coming on Sunday. Here’s how to see it in the Bay Area

Sunset in the Bay Area this Sunday will come with a rare treat: a blood moon, during a total lunar eclipse.

Additionally, since the moon will be near its perigee, or closest point to Earth, it will also be considered a “supermoon.”

And in May, the full moon is referred to as the “flower moon” by the Old Farmer’s Almanac, citing Native American, American Colonial, and other traditional North American sources for the term recognizing the abundance of spring blooms.

It all adds up to a “super flower blood moon.” So there’s a lot going on here – but either way, it’s going to be a Bay Area spectacular.

The moon will already be in a partial eclipse when it rises over the west coast at 8:06 p.m., just four minutes before sunset. The total eclipse begins at 8:30 p.m. and lasts until 9:54 p.m., and the ensuing partial eclipse ends around 10:50 p.m., said Andrew Fraknoi, chairman emeritus of the astronomy department at Foothill College.

So while it won’t be completely dark when the moon first rises, it will be one of the few times a total eclipse will be visible from the west coast.

“We’re going to miss some of the early parts of the eclipse where the shadow moves slowly across the face of the full moon, but the kids will be able to see it (because it’s early in the night),” Fraknoi said. “There is a price to pay but a very beautiful reward.”

Viewing the eclipse doesn’t require any special equipment, but if you want the clearest view in the Bay Area, consider heading to a higher elevation point such as Twin Peaks.

“It’s very democratic – you don’t need special equipment or expensive telescopes. All you need are your eyes,” Fraknoi said.

A lunar eclipse occurs when Earth is between the sun and moon and the moon moves into Earth’s shadow. A total eclipse occurs when the entire moon falls into Earth’s shadow, the darkest part of its shadow, according to NASA.

However, the moon is not completely extinguished. Some sunlight reaches the moon after passing through Earth’s atmosphere, where air pollution acts like a prism, causing the moon to appear red – hence the nickname “blood moon”.

On Sunday, the moon will rise from the southeastern horizon and turn darker and redder as it rises in the sky.

“Earth’s shadow is not completely dark because refracted red light passing through the atmosphere enters the darkest part of Earth’s shadow and produces this red color,” said Gerald McKeegan, assistant astronomer at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland.

Sightings of an early night total lunar eclipse in the Bay Area are rare – the next one occurs in early November, but will only be visible on the West Coast between 1 and 6 am.

There’s another bonus for skywatchers: the darkened moon can make it easier to spot bright stars and planets in the sky, like Mars, Venus, and Jupiter. The moon will be in the constellation of Libra at the time of the eclipse.

However, keep in mind that while it’s a “supermoon,” it won’t appear visibly larger to the naked eye, Fraknoi said. Although the supermoon is closer to Earth than a normal full moon and technically looks about 7% larger, even if you could see it side-by-side with a normal moon there would be little to no difference, a he declared.

May was a busy month in the night sky, starting with the Eta Aquarids meteor shower. An unprecedented meteor shower called Tau Herculids could be visible at the end of the month.

Gwendolyn Wu (her) is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: gwendolyn.wu@sfchronicle.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.