Aussies are in for a stellar treat tonight, with a penumbral lunar eclipse rising over parts of the country on Saturday morning. As the first of six expected lunar eclipses in 2020, it's sure to be a wonderful sight for all the lovely stargazers out there. Here are the best times to watch in Australia.
Now, you might ask what's so special about a penumbral lunar eclipse. These rare events happen when the Moon is not exactly aligned with the Earth and the Sun in orbit, causing the Earth's shadow (the penumbra) to be reflected onto the surface of the moon. The effect blocks part of the moon's light, creating a unique dull glow in the night sky.
Where can I watch the penumbral lunar eclipse?
Luckily, Australians will have the best views of the upcoming lunar eclipse, with Western Australia getting to see the eclipse in its entirety. Parts of Europe and Asia will have a partial view of the eclipse.
When to watch the lunar eclipse
If you're viewing it from Australia, the eclipse will take place on Saturday, January 11. Here are the times you'll need to head outside for each state and territory:
NSW lunar eclipse times
- Sydney, Wollongong, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie & Central Coast - The eclipse begins at 4:07am and peaks between 5:52am and 5:53am.
- Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Bourke & Albury - The eclipse begins at 4:07am and peaks between 6:03 and 6:10am
ACT lunar eclipse times
- The eclipse begins at 4:07am and peaks at 5:57am
Queensland lunar eclipse times
Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Mackay, Bundaberg, Cairns & Townsville:
- The eclipse begins at 3:07am and peaks between 4:57am and 5:03am
Victoria lunar eclipse times
Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Shepparton, Wodonga & Mildura:
- The eclipse begins at 4:07am and peaks between 6:03am and 6:10am.
Tasmania lunar eclipse times
Hobart and Launceston:
- The eclipse begins at 4:07am and peaks at 5:40am.
South Australia lunar eclipse times
Adelaide & Mount Gambier:
- The eclipse begins at 3:37am and peaks at 5:40am.
Northern Territory lunar eclipse times
Darwin & Alice Springs:
- The eclipse begins at 2:37am and peaks at 4:40am.
Western Australia lunar eclipse times
Perth, Kalgoorlie & Broome:
- The eclipse begins at 1:07am and peaks at 3:10am.
Why are some people calling it a Wolf Moon eclipse?
"Wolf moon" is a nickname bestowed upon the first full moon in January. This weekend's penumbral lunar eclipse happens to coincide with this moon cycle, hence the name "Wolf Moon eclipse". (In other words, it just sounds cool.)
Lunar eclipse viewing tips
Unlike a solar eclipse, you don't need to worry about safety glasses or other special equipment: it's perfectly safe to observe with the naked eye. To watch the eclipse, simply head outdoors prior to the start phase and look for a big arse moon. Naturally, visibility will depend on the weather so pray to Artemis for clear skies. (See more below.)
Lunar eclipse photography tips
If you're planning to take a bunch of photos for posterity, we recommend using more than a smartphone - especially if you want to make some prints. A few years ago, we ran a post advising people on the best way to photograph fireworks, and many of those tips are equally applicable to photographing an eclipse. Here's a brief summary:
- Use a tripod for maximum stability. The effect of the eclipse will be lost if there's any camera shake. You're not photographing a fast-moving object, so a tripod isn't a restriction.
- Use a remote control/trigger if possible. Again, this improves image stability.
- Think about image composition and choose a good location. If you don't have an SLR, chances are you won't be able to do a detailed close-up, so you'll have a wide-angle shot with the eclipse as a main feature. Choose a location which adds interest but doesn't detract from the eclipse; avoid having red cars, signs or buildings in shot, for example..
- Switch off the flash. The moon is (very roughly) 400,000 kilometres away from the earth, so your flash is only going to be a hindrance.
- Take lots of pictures! Your best shots may not be evident on a small viewfinder; take lots of shots and check them on a large monitor later.
For best results, use a DSLR or a good compact camera with spot metering and manual control over aperture and shutter speeds. You should also try under exposing your image to bring out more detail in the moon. You can read a bunch of additional lunar eclipse photography tips here.
What about bushfire smoke?
Sadly, much of Australia is currently shrouded in smoke due to the devastating bushfires raging across the country. Depending on where you live, this could hamper visibility significantly. On the plus side, plenty of organisations will be providing live streams of the event, which is better than nothing we suppose.
With luck, the bushfires will have cleared up before the next lunar eclipse - it takes place on June 5, 2020.
Sydney is currently experiencing its worst air pollution on record. A spate of bushfires across the state has left the city shrouded in a dense layer of smoke and many Sydneysiders are rightly worried about their health. Here's what you need to know.