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The science behind this weekend's total lunar eclipse

lukszczepanski - stock.adobe.com

If you’re a bit of a night owl, head out into your backyard and look up to the sky this Sunday night to witness a total lunar eclipse.

This event occurs about every two and half years, and to break down the science behind a total lunar eclipse, astronomy contributor Jean Creighton shares more.

She starts by explaining that humans have been very lucky to have stretches of time where several lunar eclipse have happened.

"So there are only two times a year where [the moon, the sun and the Earth] are exactly in alignment. Those two times are called an eclipse season. It turns out that on this particular eclipse season, we are all lined up for a lunar eclipse — the Moon gets into the Earth's shadow. And if it's in the deepest, darkest part of our shadow, what we call umbra, we talk about a total eclipse, and if it's kind of at the periphery it is not a total eclipse," says Creighton.

This Sunday's total lunar eclipse will also be a "blood moon," which Creighton points out is caused because basically all of the sunsets of the Earth are projected onto the moon.

"It turns out that particles in the atmosphere provide different blockage depending on the color of light that's coming through. Red light has long wavelengths, which means that a particle is of no consequence, the red light freely transmits no problem. But blue light that has short wavelengths gets blocked and scattered in all directions," she explains.

Creighton adds that half the world will be able to see the total lunar eclipse and she encourages anyone interested in viewing it more closely to visit the UWM Planetarium this Sunday from 9:30 p.m. to 12:20 a.m., where telescopes and binoculars will be available to view the eclipse.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Dr. Jean Creighton has always been inspired by how the cosmos works. She was born in Toronto, Ontario and grew up in Athens, Greece where her mother claims she showed a great interest in how stars form from the age of five.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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