The UK night sky will be treated to a rare event this week as the second of 2021’s two ‘supermoons’ takes place.
As well as being a supermoon, our celestial neighbour will also experience a lunar eclipse – giving it a reddish tinge and turning it into a so-called ‘Blood Moon’.
Providing the weather stays clear, skygazers will see Earth’s natural satellite appear bigger and brighter on the night of May 25 and the early morning of May 26.
The full moon in late May is also known as the ‘flower moon’ as it appears at the time of blossoming flowers.
This week’s supermoon will be even closer than April’s (157 kilometres closer, according to Nasa), so clear skies permitting, astronomers should get an even closer look.
What is a Blood Moon?
A lunar eclipse happens when the moon’s orbit moves in front of the Earth’s shadow, preventing the sun’s light from reaching it – instead, light from the Earth’s sunrises and sunsets illuminates the moon, giving it its ‘blood’ red appearance.
The hue and depth of the red colour is dependent on a number of factors, like the amount of dust in the atmosphere at the time of the eclipse.
If there is a particularly high amount of dust in the atmosphere, the higher frequency blue waves will be blocked, allowing through the lower frequency ‘red’ coloured light waves.
So the super blood moon’s appearance can range from a deep, fiery red to its regular grey self.
When is the next Blood Moon in 2021?
This week’s Blood Moon will be the last one in 2021 as there won’t be another total lunar eclipse until May 15 and 16 next year.
There is going to be a partial lunar eclipse in November, but that won’t have the same dramatic effect as a full Blood Moon.
When and where to get the best view of the 2021 Blood Moon in the UK
The best time to see it will be at dawn on May 26, when the moon is at its closest point to Earth, although full illumination will not occur until later in the day.
According to Patricia Skelton, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, the best time to see the supermoon in the UK will be in the early hours of the morning on May 26, or later in the evening on the same day – after sunset.
She explained: ‘A supermoon happens when a full moon occurs at the same time, or close to the time, that the moon reaches its closest point to the Earth – a point called perigee.
‘Perigee occurs at 2.51am on May 26, with full moon occurring at 12.14pm on the same day.
‘The supermoon will rise in the east around half an hour after sunset and will be visible throughout the night.’
During this time, the Earth’s natural satellite will appear around 14% bigger and 30% brighter.
Ms Skelton said: ‘For the best views of the supermoon, wait for the moon to climb higher up into the sky.’
Top tips to see the Blood Moon 2021
Get up high!
The further up you are, the better your chance of a clear sky to see the stars.
Take a hike in your local area and explore the surroundings to find the perfect stargazing spot!
The further you are away from light pollution the better chance you’ll have of seeing the stars. Moons always rise in the east and set in the west – so follow this direction in your search.
Turn off the lights
For those stargazing from the comfort of their homes, turning off the lights indoors can improve the visibility of the night sky, so long as you’re not afraid of the dark!
Artificial light can make it harder to see stars in the sky so make sure wherever you are is as dark as possible.
Choose a night with clear skies
Choose a night when clear skies are expected for the best chances of seeing the stars.
While the Flower Moon officially appears on Wednesday night, it will look big and full on the nights either side of that date.
Research what you’re looking at
Enhance the stargazing experience and download Star Chart free on AR enabled Apple or Android devices.
Star Chart allows you to point the camera at the night sky and will tell you exactly what is up there!
Use the Time and Date website for the best chance of spotting the planets!
Timeanddate.com allows you to input your location, before generating information about when the planets are most visible!
With lots of helpful information about what’s in the universe, this is a great way to educate the family about the wonders of space.
How can I see the Super Flower Blood Moon?
Wherever you are in the UK, you should get a great view of the supermoon providing the weather stays clear.
For the best possible sight, try to get as far away from light pollution as possible.
If you can’t manage to get out and see the supermoon for yourself, you can watch it from a livestream on the internet.
Lowell Observatory is running a livestream over YouTube that anyone can watch for free.
‘Lowell educators will show you live views of the eclipse through our 14” Planewave telescope and wide-view portable Vixen telescopes,’ the observatory, based in Arizona, said in a statement.
You can find the livestream here.
When it comes to the weather, the Met Office website states: ‘There is a chance of more settled conditions to gradually become established.
‘Rain and showers are likely to clear away to the east, leaving drier and less windy conditions behind.’
When is the next full moon in 2021?
January 28 – Wolf moon [date passed]
After the howling of wolves that would often be heard outside Native American villages in January, the wolf moon got its name.
February 27 – Snow moon [date passed]
The cold temperatures mean frequent snow. Also known as the Hunger moon because the conditions affected the ability to hunt for food.
March 28 – Worm moon [date passed]
Earthworms begin to rear their heads once the temperature warms up in March.
April 27 – Pink moon [date passed]
When flowers began to appear in April, the name was given to this moon due to the herb moss pink and wild ground phlox, widespread flowers that blossom early in the spring.
May 26 – Flower moon
Flowers are in full bloom by May, so the moon was given this name for the month.
June 24 – Strawberry moon
In June, strawberry picking season is at its peak.
July 24 – Buck moon
This month is the season for bucks to start growing antlers covered in velvety hair.
August 22 – Sturgeon moon
The August moon was named by fishing tribes due to the ready availability of sturgeon during this month.
September 21 – Harvest moon
Native Americans marked this month as the harvest moon due to it marking when corn is meant to be harvested.
October 20 – Hunter’s moon
Hunters found it easiest to ride over fields during this month, and animals were spotted more quickly.
November 19 – Beaver moon
Tribes set time aside to make beaver traps as the creatures prepared for winter, in the hope of securing a supply of fur for the colder months.
December 19 – Cold moon
The month where winter is the strongest, with temperatures plummeting.
Will the Blood Moon 2021 actually turn red?
Unfortunately the effects of the lunar eclipse on the moon won’t be visible in the UK, Ms Skelton said.
She said: “People viewing the supermoon from the western US, western parts of South America, Australia or south-east Asia will witness the supermoon turn a shade of crimson red as a lunar eclipse will be taking place on the same day.
‘This change in colour is not due to a physical change taking place on the moon, but simply because the moon will drift into the shadow of the Earth.
‘The Earth’s atmosphere bends light from the sun and bathes the moon in a crimson red light. Although UK stargazers won’t be able to see the lunar eclipse, the supermoon is still worth a look.’
So for us, the moon will appear its regular colour – although it will be bigger and brighter than normal this week. So it’s still worth checking out if you can.