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How to see the super wolf blood moon in UK skies on Monday morning

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Britons will need to rise early on Monday morning if they want to see one of the most spectacular astronomical events of the year – a super wolf blood moon.

Depending on weather conditions, amateur astronomers in the UK will be able to witness a total eclipse of the moon for the last time until 2029.

It will be visible in the western part of the sky as it begins to set, and will be visible to anyone who is able to see the full moon.

The Royal Astronomical Society says that in the UK the moon “will be above the horizon throughout the eclipse, though from the extreme southeast of England the sun will have risen as it comes to an end.”

GLASTONBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 28: (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created as a digital composite) In this composite image of seven different photographs the moon is seen as it enters and leaves a lunar eclipse on September 28, 2015 in Glastonbury, England. Tonight's supermoon - so called because it is the closest full moon to the Earth this year - is particularly rare as it coincides with a lunar eclipse, a combination that has not happened since 1982 and won't happen again until 2033. (Photo
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The phases of the moon as it passes through Earth’s shadow

What time will it start?

The moon will begin to pass into Earth’s outer shadow at 2.35am and its main shadow at 3.33am – before the full eclipse starts at 4.40am.

The moment of mass coverage will occur at 5.12am for viewers in the UK, which is when the moon will appear at its most red.

This will last until 5.43am and then the moon will pass out of the main shadow at 6.51am before it escapes the outer shadow at 7.49am.

Because the moon turns red, lunar eclipses are popularly known as “blood moons” – and because this one occurs when the moon is unusually close to Earth, it will be known as a super blood moon.

The wolf moon is the traditional name for the full moon in January in Native American folklore – as such this moon is being referred to as the super wolf blood moon.

Worldwide visibility for the lunar eclipse. Pic: NASA
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Worldwide visibility for the lunar eclipse. Pic: NASA

Where will it be visible?

It will only be visible within the most northern and western parts of Europe, including the whole of the UK and Portugal, and parts of north western France and Spain.

However, the whole of North America and South America will be able to see the total eclipse.

No special equipment is needed to view the moon, although binoculars or a small telescope could help you get a close-up, but protective gear isn’t needed – other than a thick coat and hat to deal with the cold!

The biggest difficulty for viewers is going to be the risk of cloud cover. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered:

What is a total lunar eclipse?

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the moon and the sun, obscuring any direct sunlight from hitting the moon.

Partial lunar eclipses also often take place, in which the Earth only obscures part of the sun’s light from hitting the moon.

Instead, as the Earth’s shadow crosses the moon, the moon will begin to turn a spooky bloody red – a phenomenon which is actually caused by the same thing that turns the sky blue on Earth during the day time.

Lord Rayleigh discovered how light is scattered in the atmosphere
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Lord Rayleigh discovered how light is scattered in the atmosphere in the 1870s

Why does the moon turn blood red?

British physicist and Nobel Prize winner Lord Rayleigh first described this phenomenon, which would be named Rayleigh scattering, in the 1870s.

He had discovered how molecules in the air cause light to scatter differently depending on the molecule and the wavelength of the light.

Different colours exist because light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum and different colours are different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.

The longest wavelengths form the violet and blue end of the visible spectrum, with the shortest wavelengths appearing red.

The blue colour of the sky is caused because the molecules in the air scatter the light at the blue end of the spectrum, while the light at the red end of the spectrum passes along.

SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES - JULY 27:  The full moon rises near Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, ahead of a total lunar eclipse. The period of totality during this eclipse, when Earth's shadow is directly across the moon and it is at its reddest, will last 1 hour, 42 minutes and 57 seconds, making it the longest viewable lunar eclipse this century.  July 27, 2018 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Astronomers value lunar eclipses for their revelations

Do astronomers get excited?

Lunar eclipses often throw up interesting data for astronomers.

When the Earth passes in front of the moon, it rapidly causes its surface temperature to drop – causing lunar rocks to suddenly freeze and crack, releasing gas.

Astronomers’ telescopes aimed at the blood moon have seen this happening, as well as another mysterious phenomenon – seemingly random spots of heat, often concentrated around craters.

Although these heat spots have been studied for more than half a century, scientists have not yet managed to establish what is producing this heat.

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