An early morning lunar eclipse

Update: 10 am, 16 May

Cloudy conditions prevailed over much of the UK but here are a couple of photos sent to us by Michael Fullerton of Norwich:

Michael Fullerton took these photos with a Panasonic HDC-SD60 camcorder using its zoom lens.

Michael reports: I had hoped to go to a viewpoint overlooking the city of Norwich not far from where I live but as there were complete cloud cover at 02.45 I decided it was unlikely that I would see anything.  However, the clouds did break and I had a clear view, but had to take the image from the road junction a few yards from my home. Not the greatest view of the south west but lucky to get the image I did given the cloud problem!

Paul Sutherland photographed the start of totality at 04:31 BST from Deal, Kent.

The start of totality in a brightening sky, photographed by Paul Sutherland using a Fujifilm X-T10 camera with 230 mm lens.

Original story:

On Monday morning, 16 May, there will be a total lunar eclipse. But viewers in the UK will need really clear skies, because the total phase starts as the Moon is getting low in the sky.

Even so, with the right conditions the sight could be dramatic, with a deep red Moon hanging just over the skyline. During total lunar eclipses, the Moon often goes red because it is illuminated only by light filtering through the rim of the Earth’s atmosphere. If you were standing on the Moon at the time it would be backlit by the Sun, and would appear as a bright red ring of light. So this eclipse could be a sight to lose sleep for, even on Earth!

A previous total lunar eclipse, when the circumstances were similar to this week’s event. Credit Robin Scagell/Galaxy

Where and when to look

The eclipse starts at 2:30 BST when the Moon, at that time quite low in the south, starts to enter the outer edges of the Earth’s shadow, called the penumbra. A few minutes after this it will start to look slightly darker than usual on its eastern side. The shadow will get more and more noticeable until at 3:27 it starts to enter the proper shadow, the umbra, and the eastern edge starts to get very dark. By now the Moon is getting quite low in the south-west. Then an hour later, at 4:28, it’s completely in the Earth’s shadow and the total part of the eclipse has begun.

Stages of the eclipse as the Moon passes into Earth’s shadow, as seen from the centre of the UK. The Moon is the yellow disc, and the grey circles mark the Earth’s shadow, which is normally invisible.

But the trouble is that this is also about the time that the sky is starting to get really bright, as sunrise is not far away. The time of sunrise varies across the UK, and in the north the Sun rises about 4:50. You might have trouble finding the Moon at all, but bear in mind that eclipses happen when the Sun, Earth and Moon are in line. That means that that the Moon is exactly opposite the Sun in the sky, so look for the Moon in the direction exactly opposite where the Sun will be rising.

This is where a phone app comes in handy, it you can get it to work properly and show things where they are meant to be in the sky. If you are lucky it will show you exactly where the Moon is.

Mid eclipse is at 5:11 BST, but you are only likely to see this to the west of the country, as the Sun will have risen on the eastern side. Good luck with it, if you get up early!