Ireland is set to see a full lunar eclipse for the first time in several years as the Earth comes between the sun and the moon in the early hours of Monday morning.
The moon will appear larger and turn a dim red colour at the moment of full eclipse at about 4.30am.
A full lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth and moon align, with the Earth in the middle, leaving the moon entirely in the Earth’s shadow. Over about an hour beforehand, the moon will gradually move into the Earth’s shadow.
David Moore, chairman of Astronomy Ireland, said the phenomenon had not been seen in Ireland for about three years and would not take place again for another three years.
The full eclipse should be visible to the naked eye, with the moon expected to be low down in the sky at the time, he said.
“The moon moves into the Earth’s shadow from 3.30am to 4.30am. The moon will turn a dim, orange reddish colour, called a blood moon … It is going to be low down when it is totally eclipsed; as the moon is setting the sun is rising, the earlier you view the better,” he said.
The timing of the lunar eclipse in the early hours was “annoying”, but well worth getting up to witness, he said. “When there’s a spectacle of nature happening in the sky, it’s more popular than football,” he said.
There will be an eclipse of the sun in October, with a meteor shower expected to be visible in the sky in August, Mr Moore added.
Interest in astronomy had “boomed” during the Covid-19 pandemic, as people had more time at home to spend taking up hobbies, he said. People who previously had a “passing interest” in studying the skies got more involved in star gazing over the last two years.
“During the lockdowns when people couldn’t travel more than five kilometres [from their home], people with binoculars or a telescope were travelling trillions of kilometres quite legally” to explore the sky, he quipped.