Michael Worthington with his Williams Optics FLT110 Apochromatic Refractor setup for astro photography is hoping for clear skies so he can photograph the lunar eclipse.
Michael Worthington with his Williams Optics FLT110 Apochromatic Refractor setup for astro photography is hoping for clear skies so he can photograph the lunar eclipse. Jay Cronan

Seeing red, but in a good way

NORTHERN Rivers residents are in for a treat this weekend with a total lunar eclipse set to coincide with a meteor shower in an astronomical phenomenon tipped to light up the sky.

The lunar eclipse will be visible from 11.45pm on Saturday when the Earth's shadow will begin covering the moon.

Pegged as one of the most spectacular events on the astronomical calendar - and the second of only two this year - the lunar eclipse will last 51 minutes and is expected to transform the moon's colour to cherry red.

Star gazers will also have the chance to witness the annual Gemindis meteor shower, which occurs until December 21 and in recent years has produced more than 100 falling meteors every hour.

Astronomer and Australasian Science magazine contributor Dave Reneke said the family-friendly event should not to be missed.

"Lunar eclipses occur quite infrequently and this one will be complemented by a meteor shower," he said.

"The best time to see the meteors will be early Sunday morning, between 1am and 4am."

Mr Reneke said Northern Rivers residents were in a prime location to catch a glimpse of the action.

"People will see a great pinkish colour come across the moon and over about an hour it will become more and more red until it becomes fully immersed in the Earth's shadow.

"Then the process will reverse itself," he said.

But Mr Reneke said bright city lights could affect the view.

"My advice is to get away from light pollution and not to have a lot of ambient light around you.

"There will be beautiful views of the eclipse from the beach, providing there's no cloud cover and the weather conditions are good," he said.

And unlike a solar eclipse, the lunar eclipse is safe to look at. Keen photographers can even capture its beauty - as long as they use a camera mount.

Amateur astro photographer Michael Worthington said a telescope or pair of binoculars would enhance what will be a "spectacular sight".

"It will be visible through the naked eye, but through a telescope you'll see parts of the moon that normally aren't visible," the Rosebank resident said.

"It will be awesome and we're in a prime position to see it on the North Coast; we've got front row seats."

Star gazers can call it a night after 3am when the moon is expected to leave the Earth's shadow and return to its normal colour.

 

Lunar facts

  • Full moons are the only time lunar eclipses occur.
  • New moons are the only time solar eclipses occur.
  • A solar eclipse always occurs two weeks after or two weeks before a total lunar eclipse.
  • Lunar eclipses are visible over an entire hemisphere. Solar eclipses are visible in a narrow path that is a maximum of 269km wide.

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