File photograph of a 'blood moon'. / REUTERS

This is the best time to see May's total eclipse of the moon

Make the most of it as there will not be another one visible from Spain for many years to come

KEN CAMPBELL

An eclipse of the moon occurs when the sun, Earth and moon are in a direct line with the Earth in the middle. The moon will pass through the shadow created by the Earth.

An eclipse of the sun is when the set-up is the other way round, with the moon now in the middle and the shadow of the moon falls upon the Earth. Whereas an eclipse of the sun can only be seen in a very small path along the Earth, an eclipse of the moon can be seen by anyone who can see the moon during the eclipse, and because the Earth is so much bigger than the moon, our shadow covers the whole of the moon not just a small path.

An image that explains how a lunar eclipse works. / SUR

From 4.30am on Monday 16 May, the Earth's shadow will begin to slowly creep across the moon from the left-hand side. Total eclipse will occur at 5.30am when the whole of the moon will be engulfed by the shadow.

The moon won't go completely black though, it will appear as a deep shade of red, this is caused by the sun's light being scattered through our atmosphere. If you were standing on the moon you would see the sun blacked out by the Earth but around it would be a ring of sunlight. The actual colour that the moon will go will depend on atmospheric conditions at the time.

Maximum eclipse will occur at 6.10am when the moon will be in the centre of our shadow, and this will be when it will appear darkest. At 6.55am, the shadow will begin to withdraw from the left and the moon will begin to reappear.

Unfortunately, this eclipse will be near to dawn and the moon will begin to set before the eclipse is over. But make the most of it as there will not be another one visible from Spain for many years to come.

Meanwhile, mark your calendar for 2 August 2027, when a total eclipse of the sun will pass directly over the south coast of Spain from Gibraltar to Malaga and onwards - book your viewing space now!