Total lunar eclipse 2019: ‘Super blood wolf moon appears over the UK’
Skygazers in parts of the UK lucky enough to be under clear skies have been treated to the astronomical spectacle of a “super blood wolf moon”.
The rare phenomenon, caused in part by a lunar eclipse, makes the surface of the moon appear a reddish hue while seeming brighter and closer to earth than normal.
Catching a glimpse of the curiously-titled event will be down to luck for those wrapping up and heading out early, as many parts of the country were covered by cloud on Monday morning.
Met Office forecaster Mark Wilson said: “There’s a lot cloud around, but there are some breaks to enjoy the lunar eclipse as well.
“Across lots of central England and northern England there’s quite a lot of lower cloud around, but there are still some breaks in cloud particularly over south-east England and parts of south-west England as well.
“It’s kind of a mixed bag – further towards the north there’s more in the way of cloud as well affecting parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland, so probably not great visibility up there unfortunately.”
A super blood wolf moon occurs when as a blood moon and supermoon occur simultaneously and was best seen from the UK at around 5.10am – providing clouds did not obstruct the view.
The optimum viewing time was at around 5.12am when the eclipse was at its peak.
Astronomers are particularly interested in this year’s blood moon as it is the last of its kind for two years.
“We’re going into this unusual lull in total lunar eclipses over the next couple of years,” explained Tom Kerss, an astronomer from the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
“So this is a really good one to catch as it’s going to be a long time before you catch another one like this, we will have other lunar eclipses, we just won’t have anything quite as spectacular until May 2021.”
Blood moons and lunar eclipses of the past
Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer, created fear in 1504 after he used knowledge of an upcoming blood moon to convince the Arawak Indians to help him while stranded in Jamaica.
He led them to believe their lack of support would anger God and result in a blood moon in the sky. When the moon began to “bleed”, the Arawak Indians were fooled into giving Columbus and his crew food.
In more recent years, the total lunar eclipse of July 16, 2000 – which was seen in the Pacific Ocean, eastern Asia and Australia – was one of the longest to ever be recorded, lasting 1 hour 46 minutes.
The last lunar eclipse took place on July 27, 2018; and the totality spanned across 1 hour 43 minutes, marking the longest eclipse of the 21st century.
Blood moon myths and tales
From religious theories to modern day conspiracies, there are a range of myths and tales linked to the concept of a blood moon.
Some Christian conspiracists consider a blood moon to be an apocalyptic sign from the heavens while the Inca thought it represented an attack by a cosmic jaguar.
The Hupa, a Native American tribe from northern California, believed the moon had 20 wives and numerous pets including lions and snakes. When the moon didn’t give them enough food to eat, they attacked it, consequently making it bleed.
The Batammaliba people in Togo and Benin, Africa, believe a lunar eclipse represents a fight between the sun and the moon, which humans must learn from in terms of their own arguments.
Other astronomical events in 2019
The Quadrantid meteor shower reached its maximum rate of activity on January 4, with shooting stars appearing in the sky each night up until January 6.
A conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will appear in the east sky before sunrise on January 22, showing the two bright planets 2.4 degrees from each other.
The Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower will be seen in dark locations after midnight on May 7, while Saturn will shine the brightest on July 9, this year, as reaches its closest approach to Earth.
Plus an annular solar eclipse will take place on December 26, starting in Saudi Arabia and concluding in the Pacific Ocean, with a ring of light appearing around the moon.
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