Best places and time to watch the rare 'super flower blood moon' in Ontario
A lunar eclipse is upon us and people in Ontario are uniquely positioned to see what’s known as a "super flower blood moon."
Yes, the event will be as cool as it sounds, and CTV News Toronto spoke with Jesse Rogerson, Ph.D, astrophysicist and assistant professor at York University, and Rachel Ward-Maxwell, Ph.D., Researcher-Programmer, Astronomy & Space Sciences at the Ontario Science Centre for what to expect, and the best place to catch the natural phenomenon.
WHY IS IT CALLED 'SUPER FLOWER BLOOD MOON ECLIPSE'?
“OK. So it’s three different things and all three of them are interesting reflections of humanity,” Rogerson explained.
- “Super refers to the fact that the moon is going to be at its closest approach to us through its orbit. So the moon goes around us in an ellipse and what that means is that there’s one point in its orbit that it’s at its closest to earth and then there’s another point in its orbit where it’s furthest from earth. Whenever it’s in that closest approach point that’s called a super moon.
- This is the flower moon because it’s happening in April, May, this is the time when we’re starting to get blooms happening and you look outside and you get wonderful flowers and the trees are starting to finally get their leaves, and this is why we call it a flower moon,” Rogerson said.
It should be noted that the name “flower” itself comes from the Farmer’s Almanac, which has assigned different names to full moons depending on the month (think “harvest moon”).
However, “those names are based in different traditions and cultures. [Flower] might not be specific to a name that would have been used by Indigenous nations in Ontario,” Ward-Maxwell said.
- For Rogerson, the blood element of this eclipse is the “really, really fun one.”
“What it refers to is that we’re going into a total lunar eclipse this weekend. Sunday night, our moon is going to go into earth’s shadow. And now, you would think that means that the moon would go dark, right?
"Earth’s shadow isn’t perfectly dark, there’s a little bit of a red tinge to our shadow. And so when the moon goes into our shadow, what it ends up doing is not going completely black, it goes a very dark red, almost purple in colour, and this has been referred to throughout millennia of human history as a blood moon,” he said.
Super flower blood moon. The full moon rises over the Toronto skyline as seen from Milton, Ont., on Monday, November 14, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
WHEN CAN YOU SEE THE 'SUPER FLOWER BLOOD MOON ECLIPSE'?
While the lunar eclipse will last several hours on Sunday, there are a few times you should be aware of, Ward-Maxwell said.
- 9:30 p.m. : “If you were to go out at 9:32, when the eclipse officially starts, you won’t really be able to notice much difference because the penumbra shadow (lighter) is not really visible as much as the shadow of the umbra (darker).
- 10:30 p.m.: “10:27 is when the umbra starts to fall on the moon. So that’s when the partial eclipse starts. So I would recommend people head out just before 10:30 to actually be able to see the shadow on the moon.
- 11:30 p.m.: “The totality, when the moon will look a reddish orange colour, that’ll start at 11:30 until almost 1 a.m. It’s going to last 85 minutes, it’s the longest lunar eclipse since 2007. That’s going to be good if we have poor weather that we have a nice long window to be able to try to catch a glimpse of it.”
THERE’S RAIN IN THE FORECAST FOR SUNDAY OVER MOST OF SOUTHERN ONTARIO. WILL THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE ON HOW VISIBLE THIS ECLIPSE IS?
Weather, according to Rogerson, will be the “biggest competition” in actually viewing the event this weekend.
“As soon as you get any kind of major overcast -- you’re done. You can’t see it at all,” he said. “A little bit of wispy clouds -- you know how you go out and you can see the full moon even if there’s a little bit of clouds, you kind of still see it -- that’s OK. But if it’s a full overcast on Sunday, and you normally wouldn’t be able to see the moon, then you won’t see the moon that night either.”
“We’re sort of at the mercy of the clouds, so to speak,” he said.
DO YOU NEED ANY SPECIAL TECHNOLOGY OR EQUIPMENT TO SEE IT?
Unlike a solar eclipse, where you need protective lenses to view the sun safely, you don’t need anything more than your own eyes to witness the rare event, Ward-Maxwell said.
“Because we’re going to be looking at the moon, it’s completely safe. You don’t need any type of equipment or safety precautions. Just head outside, find an unobstructed view of the moon, and you’ll be able to see it just with the naked eye,” she said.
IF I MISS THIS SUPER BLOOD MOON, WHEN CAN I EXPECT TO CATCH THE NEXT ONE?
“It’ll definitely happen again in our lifetime, but it’s not going to happen any time soon,” Rogerson said.
If you can’t stay up to watch the event in full, Rogerson said you probably will get another chance to witness the phenomenon -- in five or six years from now.
WHERE WOULD BE THE BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE SPECTACLE?
The most wonderful thing about total lunar eclipses, according to Rogerson, is that you won’t have to travel far to take in this sight. Actually, you won’t have to travel at all.
“Literally everywhere in Ontario is the best place to view this,” Rogerson said. “The moon is so visible, the moon is such an easy thing to see, you don’t need a super-dark sky. You could be in the middle of downtown Toronto and as long as you can see the moon -- you’re going to be able to see it.”
“Light pollution isn’t an issue, you just need a clear view of the sky … You could literally step outside wherever you live. The last one I watched, I stepped out on to my front porch and I was like ‘oh, there it is. There’s the moon right there and I can see it occurring.’ Because the moon is so bright, it’s not that restrictive.”
If you want to tack on a mini-road trip to your viewing party, Ward-Maxwell suggests that you can travel to an area of the province where clear skies are expected Sunday, such as northern Ontario.
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