There is a chance to observe a special astronomical event this weekend as a total lunar eclipse will occur on the night of May 15/16. It’s a great opportunity to stop and look at the sky, and we’ve got information on how to watch the event – whether you want to go outside to see for yourself or stay warm inside and watch online .
What to expect from the lunar eclipse
A telescopic visualization of the total lunar eclipse of May 15-16, 2022. NASA/Goddard/Ernie Wright
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon is exactly on the opposite side of the earth from the sun, so that the earth casts a shadow over the moon. It’s relatively common for partial lunar eclipses, where part of the moon is eclipsed by Earth, but the event this weekend is a rarer total lunar eclipse. This happens about once every year and a half, when the moon is completely in the shadows.
As the Earth, Sun and Moon come into position, you’ll see a shadow appear over the Moon’s face, moving over it until it completely blocks it. The shadow is called the umbra and the point at which it completely covers the moon is called the totality.
For a more in-depth explanation of how lunar eclipses happen and how they differ from solar eclipses or phases of the moon, NASA has a helpful video:
How to view the lunar eclipse
The good thing about lunar eclipses is that, unlike solar eclipses, they are completely safe to watch and require no special equipment. If you have binoculars or a telescope, this is a good excuse to take them out and observe the moon, but you can also see the eclipse with the naked eye – provided there are no clouds in the way, so cross your fingers for good weather.
It is also possible to view the solar eclipse from anywhere in the world where it is dark at the correct hours. In this case, that includes a complete view of every stage of the eclipse from the eastern half of the United States and all of South America. Totality will also be visible from many other places, including most of Africa and Central Europe. Check out the interactive NASA map to see when totality will take place where you are.
It should be easy to see the eclipse when it takes place. “The entire half of the Earth in darkness during those hours will be able to see it,” said NASA astronomer Alphonse Sterling. “You don’t have to work too hard to find a good vantage point. Just go outside!”
According to astronomer Mitzi Adams, the eclipse will also present a chance to see more stars: “No moon means more visible stars,” Adams said. “In totality, if the sky is clear, we may even be able to see the Milky Way itself, appearing as a hazy white river of stars stretching in a curved arc.”
Watch the solar eclipse online
If you can’t go outside, if the weather is bad, or if you’re in a location where it’s not dark at the right time, you can watch the eclipse online. NASA has a stream of the solar eclipse with views from telescopes around the world, along with expert commentary. The stream will begin on Sunday, May 15 at 11pm ET (8pm PT), and you can watch the video below: