Stargazers prepare for lunar eclipse over Ireland

Freezing temperatures forecast as moon set to turn darker and reddish in night sky

Video captures the moon moving between NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the sun on January 30th, creating a lunar transit, or partial solar eclipse, and a mid-level solar flare. Video: NASA


Stargazers will have to brave sub-zero temperatures in order to witness tonight’s lunar eclipse, which will see the moon turn darker than normal and reddish in colour.

Friday night’s partial eclipse of the moon should be visible across Ireland, with Met Éireann forecasting dry weather for most of the country.

However, the forecaster has warned temperatures will drop to -3 degrees in places, with a sharp to severe frost and some icy patches.

A lunar eclipse takes places when the sun, Earth and moon are aligned with the earth in the middle. This causes the earth to temporarily block off the light shining directly onto the moon. When the moon is only partially within the Earth’s shadow, part of its surface appears darker, leading to a partial lunar eclipse.

According to Astronomy Ireland, the next total lunar eclipse will be visible from Ireland on January 21st, 2019.

Stargazers will also be treated to a snow moon on Friday. A full moon in February is named a snow moon because in the United States, February is traditionally the snowiest time of year.

In the same way, a harvest moon is so called because it is a full moon nearest the autumnal equinox.

Closest approach

People are also set to witness a New Year comet on Friday night. Visible around the world since December, the comet will make its closest approach to Earth since 2011, flying past a mere 7.4 million miles away.

The comet will be visible from midnight, but people will need binoculars or a telescope to see it. Those who miss it will have to wait another five years for it to reappear.

Astronomy Ireland is holding an eclipse watch event on Friday at 10.30pm at their headquarters in Blanchardstown, which is open to the public. Those who capture the eclipse on camera are invited to send their images to Astronomy Ireland’s magazine.

Additional reporting from PA