Watchers hope for clear skies for Saturday's eclipse

 

ECLIPSE:AS WITH buses, you can wait ages for an eclipse, and then several come along at once.

Saturday night sees the third and final major eclipse of the year when an almost total lunar eclipse will be visible in all parts of Ireland - weather permitting.

Lunar eclipses occur when Earth comes directly between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow on the moon.

As anybody who saw the eclipse that occurred on a cloudless night in March last year knows, lunar eclipses can be quite a sight.

"It's like that song about a bad moon on the rise," said amateur astronomer Dave Grennan, who writes the sky diary column for Astronomy Space magazine. "The moon should turn blood red. It will be an extraordinary thing to see. It will be quite ominous," he said.

By 10.10pm on Saturday the moon will be 81 per cent eclipsed by the Earth, which should make for some good visuals, but the rest of the moon will only be faintly illuminated.

That is, of course, if the view is not obscured by cloud. The partial solar eclipse on August 1st was largely obscured, though Irish Times photographer Alan Betson managed to snap it through a brief respite in the weather (see photograph left).

Members of Astronomy Ireland who put in an all-night vigil to see a full lunar eclipse in February were rewarded with a brief glimpse through thick cloud and rain.

The recent bad weather, a nuisance for most people, has been extremely disruptive for astronomers.

"Since May 20th, there have been two clear nights," Mr Grennan says.

"The weather is completely and utterly awful."

The forecast for the rest of the week is as bad as it has been recently, but there is some suggestion that it may clear up in time on Saturday evening for the eclipse to be visible.

"The thing with the Irish weather is you have to be ready to go," says Astronomy Ireland chairman David Moore.

"If you wait for a night with a clear forecast, you are going to be disappointed. Sometimes, there are good clear nights and they are not forecast. You take the opportunities when they come."

Astronomy Ireland is setting up eclipse watches on Saturday night in Carlow, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Limerick and Mayo. Further details are available at www.astronomy.ie/lunareclipse0808.html