Mark your calendar! Sunday, May 15 you will have the opportunity to see a lunar eclipse! Heading into the upcoming weekend, there will be an increase in cloud cover as some moisture builds into the region. With any luck, the clouds will break apart briefly Sunday night before building back in early Monday morning. You won’t need a telescope to see the eclipse but you will want to make sure you are away from the city lights.

Here in the Tennessee Valley, we have the perfect position to see every stage of the lunar eclipse. Totality will be visible in much of Africa, western Europe, South America and the majority of North America. The partial eclipse will begin at 9:27 p.m. CT. The maximum eclipse will be at 11:11 p.m. CT. The partial eclipse will end at 12:55 a.m. CT. If you are unable to view the eclipse, NASA will live stream it here. The next lunar eclipse this year be on November 8.

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A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, moon and Earth are aligned. When this happens, the moon will be in the shadow of the earth. This event will be a total lunar eclipse because the moon will be within the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, known as the umbra. Sometimes a lunar eclipse is referred to as the ‘Blood Moon’ because the moon appears red while in the umbra.

So why exactly does the moon have a red tint to it? Rayleigh scattering is the reason for the red tint of the moon. During a lunar eclipse, the blue light scatters away while the red, orange and yellow light travels through, turning the moon red. The more cloud cover, or even dirt in the atmosphere, at the time the sunlight travels through, will lead to a redder moon.

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Rayleigh Scattering Explanation

Rayleigh Scattering Phenomenon

Light travels in waves and different colors of light have different properties. Blue light has a shorter wavelength, allowing it to scatter easier through air particles in Earth’s atmosphere. This is compared to red light, which has a larger wavelength.

A perfect example of this phenomenon is the colors of a sunset and sunrise. As the different light waves pass through the atmosphere, the blue-light wavelength is easily scattered through the air particles compared to the red light. With the red colors being more dominant, it makes for a beautiful sunset and even sunrises.

Possible Meteor Outburst May 15th

The chart above presents the sky as seen from Southern California at 10:20 Universal Time on May 15, 2022. The 99% illuminated moon lies in western Libra, 22 degrees above the southwestern horizon while the expected radiant (dark circle) lies 70 degrees high in the northwestern sky. This chart is courtesy of Southern Star Systems.

Along with the lunar eclipse in May, the American Meteor Society is monitoring the potential for multiple meteor outbursts. Three in total will be possible. During the morning hours of May 15, a debris field was created by the Apollo asteroid known as 2006GY2. This will likely be visible in southwestern portions of the United States along with Mexico, though the bright moonlight could limit observations.

You can find more about this event on the American Meteor Society website.