Classrooms next week will be abuzz with excited chatter about
a blood-red moon hovering in the New Zealand skies.
A child-friendly lunar eclipse - where the Earth passes
between the moon and the sun, casting a red glow on the moon
- will be seen before bedtime on Tuesday evening.
Forecasters say the best chance of viewing the astronomical
extravaganza is by perching high on an eastern beach sand
dune and hoping the weather holds off.
It is the first of two lunar eclipses to be seen from New
Zealand this year, with the second event happening around
midnight on October 8.
But Tuesday's event will be a special family affair.
"The big attraction is after dinner time and families can go
out together and have a good look," said David Britten,
astronomy educator at Stardome Observatory at Auckland's One
Spectators will be able to see the moon rise from 6pm.
It will then move within the Earth's shadow to be completely
eclipsed by 7.08pm - about 15 degrees above the eastern
The full eclipse will last for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
In a lunar eclipse, the moon is obscured as it passes through
the Earth's shadow.
Two shadows will cross the moon during the event - the large
penumbra (or "almost-shadow"), which dims the moon, and the
umbra, a smaller opaque shadow caused by the Earth blocking
out the light from the sun to the moon.
And the best vantage, according to both astronomers and
meteorologists, it will be on any eastern beach - if the
clouds stay away.
MetService forecaster Daniel Corbett said early indications
have a weather system lashing the west coast on Tuesday.
But eastern areas, particularly Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, and
eastern Bay of Plenty, might stay dry, and clear, for long
enough to see the event.
"Even if there is cloud and rain forecast, you might just get
a break in the cloud to see it," Mr Corbett said.
The moon would appear blood red, Mr Britten said, but in
built-up areas with artificial light, it would be a more
He advised a quick reconnaissance mission the night or two
before the eclipse to see where the moon would be rising and
to check there were no obstacles - trees, hills, buildings -
blocking the view.
Members of the Auckland Astronomy Society will be gathering
at Browns Bay, Cheltenham Beach, Eastern Beach, One Tree Hill
and the Arataki Visitors Centre in the Waitakere Ranges.
When and where to watch the total lunar eclipse - April 15,
* Penumbral eclipse begins: 4.55pm
* Partial eclipse begins: 5.59pm
* Full eclipse begins: 7.08pm
* Maximum eclipse: 7.46pm
* Full eclipse ends: 8.23pm
* Partial eclipse ends: 9.32pm
* Penumbral eclipse ends: 10.36pm
* Tuesday's eclipse will be best seen from eastern beaches.
* It can be seen with the naked eye, but binoculars or
telescopes will improve the view.
* Contact your local astronomical society or club for viewing
* In Auckland, the Stardome Observatory will be open.