‘Blood micromoon’: New Zealand to enjoy partial lunar eclipse not seen for 800 years

Stargazers will be able to see longest partial eclipse visible from New Zealand since 1212

New Zealanders looking to the sky on Friday night will be treated to an incredibly rare lunar spectacle, not seen in their sky in more than 800 years.

The longest partial lunar eclipse visible in New Zealand since the year 1212 is set to start at 8.20pm NZT, when the shadow of the Earth will begin to move across the moon’s face. It will be 97% covered with shadow by 10pm. At that moment, the lunar surface will briefly turn red. The near-total eclipse will finish its three-and-a-half-hour journey just prior to midnight.

Rob Davison, an astronomer at Auckland’s Stardome Observatory, said: “When you have a total lunar eclipse, it’s not uncommon to have the entirety of that lasting for three-and-a-half hours, sometimes a bit shorter, sometimes longer. But for a partial eclipse to last this long, it’s just very rare.

“Most of the eclipse will be dominated by the shadow moving across the moon, with a brief period where it will appear as a blood micromoon in our night sky.”

There are two main reasons this is a rare event, he said, the first being that it is a partial eclipse, but also because of where the moon is positioned in its orbit.

“The moon is at apogee, which means it’s at the farthest point from Earth in its orbit. The moon’s orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle, it’s an ellipse which means as it goes around, it comes a little bit closer and then, as it swings around, it goes a little bit further away,” Davison said.

Astronomer Rob Davison with his telescope.
Astronomer Rob Davison with his telescope. Photograph: Supplied

“So when it’s at its closest point, it’s called perigee, and that’s when you get a so-called super moon – about 360,000 kilometres away. When it swings around to the other side, and is in apogee, it’s about 400,000 kilometres away.”

The moon moves slower at this point, and this is why there is an ‘“unusually long” partial-eclipse.

The eclipse will be visible in other parts of the world, particularly in the western states of the US. But for New Zealanders, this eclipse is made all the more special because it happens at a time of night when stargazers are more likely to be awake, Davison said.

New Zealand will have 13 total or near-total lunar eclipses in the next 20 years. But seven of those will be in the early hours of the morning. Four will be visible around midnight. “Only only two of them will be in the evening, including this one,” he said.

“So for people aren’t really wanting to stay up late, or if they have families or younger children, this is a really good one to do.”

For the curious, or those who cannot catch a glimpse, Nasa will livestream the event.


Eva Corlett in Wellington

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

'Blood moon' lunar eclipse – in pictures
The moon turns red and orange during a total lunar eclipse due to a perfect alignment of the sun, Earth and the moon, otherwise known as a syzygy

15, Apr, 2014 @10:29 AM

'Blood moon': your images of the total lunar eclipse
The 'Blood moon' may not - yet - have heralded the end of the world, but it did make for some excellent photographs for our skywatching readers

James Walsh and Guardian readers

16, Apr, 2014 @3:14 PM

Article image
'Blood Moon': share your images of the total lunar eclipse
The first total lunar eclipse of 2014 has taken place, and was visible across North and South America, among other places. Did you stay up to see it? Share your images via GuardianWitness

James Walsh and Guardian readers

15, Apr, 2014 @10:59 AM

Article image
'Blood moon' total lunar eclipse to make short appearance on Saturday
Total lunar eclipse to last four minutes and 43 seconds – the shortest in a century – and will be most visible in western US and Australia with partial view in New York

Alan Yuhas in New York

03, Apr, 2015 @6:59 PM

Article image
Blood moon 2018: the lunar eclipse – as it happened
Tracking the eclipse from Australia, India, the Middle East, east Africa and Europe

Jessica McKay

27, Jul, 2018 @10:25 PM

Blood Moon: lunar eclipse as light passes through Earth's atmosphere, turning it orange

Parts of the world saw a rare celestial event on Tuesday when the Earth's shadow fell across the moon, turning it orange

15, Apr, 2014 @10:40 AM

Article image
Lunar eclipse 2019: from Australia to UK, stargazers enjoy bright side of the moon
Photographers from Sydney to Brasilia capture July’s stunning partial lunar eclipse

Naaman Zhou

17, Jul, 2019 @2:38 AM

Article image
Super blood wolf moon: rare total lunar eclipse to appear in skies
Last blood moon for two years will combine with a supermoon to create unusual celestial phenomenon

Guardian staff and agencies

20, Jan, 2019 @3:24 PM

Article image
Lunar eclipse 2018: when to see the blood moon – and the science behind it
Everything you need to know about Friday’s total lunar eclipse, from how to see it wherever you are in the world to why the moon turns red

Stuart Clark

27, Jul, 2018 @9:41 AM

Article image
Spacewatch: total lunar eclipse and largest supermoon of the year
Although the full supermoon will be easily seen from Europe and Africa, sadly the eclipse will not be

Stuart Clark

24, May, 2021 @5:00 AM