The total eclipse of the Moon is set to be visible from France in the early hours of tomorrow morning (around 06:00 on May 16).
Viewers can watch the eclipse with the naked eye safely, with no special equipment.
What is an eclipse of the Moon?
A Moon eclipse happens when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned. The Moon is in the Earth’s shadow, which masks it from view. Only when the three are perfectly aligned does a total eclipse take place.
The Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun, but it is also 400 times closer to us, hence why the two can ‘cover’ each other perfectly from our point of view on Earth.
What will be visible from France?
The Moon will not ‘disappear’ from the sky. Instead, it will appear as a red colour, and is sometimes called a Blood Moon for this reason. This is because the Sun’s rays are not hitting it directly.
The red colour comes because only a small part of the red rays will be filtered from the Earth’s atmopshere, while the blue rays diverge outwards. The same phenomenon is what causes sunrises and sunsets on Earth to be red-coloured.
During the eclipse, the Moon is gradually covered by the Earth’s shadow and then appears to turn red. In practice, it may turn more red, orange, or pink, depending on atmospheric conditions and pollution levels.
Unfortunately, the visibility of the eclipse depends significantly on the weather. The forecast in much of western France is for clouds and storms today, and clouds are also forecast for most of the northeast.
The only clear areas are forecast to be in the southeast and Corsica, although this may change and depend significantly on your exact location.
When will it happen?
Seen from mainland France, the event is set to begin at 04:27, with the maximum phase beginning at 05:28. The peak eclipse is set for 06:11, and will last until 06:53.
Eric Chapelle, an astronomy specialist, told FranceInfo: “A lunar eclipse is different from a solar eclipse. For a lunar eclipse, as soon as we are in the shadow, we say that it is ‘total’ (as opposed to a solar eclipse when there is a single moment at which the effect is most pronounced).”
However, at this time of year, the eclipse will take place at a similar time to sunrise, so the light of day may affect visibility.
Do I need anything to watch?
If cloud cover does not ruin the show, you can watch without any special equipment or safety measures (in contrast to a solar eclipse).
However, the Moon may appear very low on the horizon, so you may need to go to higher storeys to see it properly if you live on the ground floor.
If you manage to take a good photo of the eclipse, send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
When will the next one happen?
The next total eclipse of the Moon visible from mainland France will not happen until March 14, 2025, and only the start will be visible.
However, the eclipse of September 7, 2025 will be “easier and nicer to observe”, said Mr Chapelle, because it will happen at the end of the afternoon and into the early evening.