This Spring, you’ll want to grab a blanket and head out where the skies are clear – a total lunar eclipse will be visible on May 16. The celestial event will be visible to the Americas, Europe and Africa and will last for 84.9 minutes.
We’ve seen a few partial lunar eclipses recently, the most recent being on November 19, 2021, where a part of the moon, at the full phase in its cycle, passed through the umbra (shadow area) of the Earth, blocking the sun’s reflection. As a result, only a section of our favorite satellite will disappear from the night sky. But this time, we’ll get to see the real magic act. Unlike a partial eclipse, a total eclipse means that the moon will fall directly into the path of the umbra. But instead of just disappearing, the moon will darken and even turn an ominous blood-red as a result of the light that refracts around the Earth.
Then, alakazam, the moon will begin to move into the Earth’s penumbra, or partial shadow, and return to its usual bright and round form.
Needless to say, you may want to invest in a telescope to catch the show.
According to EarthSky.org, the greatest eclipse, “the moment when the moon passes closest to center of Earth’s shadow cone,” will occur at 04:12 UTC. In Central Time, that translates to 11:12 p.m, but you might want to set up your blankets and camp chairs an hour or two beforehand to see the full effect.
Lunar Eclipse Superstitions from Around the Globe
Not surprisingly, watching the moon disappear then turn red caused some panic for past civilizations that didn’t have the astronomical understanding to explain the event. As a result, there are dozens if not hundreds of superstitions that societies have created that try to provide a reason for or even consequences of a total lunar eclipse.
According to Farmer’s Almanac, in Tibet, Buddhists believe that any good or bad deeds that you commit are multiplied tenfold. If you help out a neighbor, you get extra brownie points. But if decided to leave dishes in the sink, well, it might weigh heavier on your mind.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, there’s a myth that claims that the sun and moon are in a fight during a lunar eclipse. To end the fight, the people have to encourage celestial beings to resolve their differences. In the U.S., many Native American tribes believe lunar eclipses are a symbol of transformation. This follows the belief that the moon controls the planet.
And, around the world, many civilizations believed that pregnant mothers should remain indoors and rest as the eclipse can curse the unborn child. It may sound silly today, but to us, that sounds like a great reason for expecting mothers to take a much-needed break.
Want to know more about the coming eclipse? Stick with Outsider for all celestial updates as we get closer to the date.