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Eclipse Guide

How to See the Next Lunar Eclipse:
May 26, 2021

As interest in astrotourism grows, eclipse chasing has become an increasingly popular activity. Whether you travel to see an eclipse or are lucky enough to enjoy them as they pass over your home, there’s no denying that eclipses are powerful and humbling to experience. But when is the next lunar eclipse occurring?

I saw my first total lunar eclipse in 2018 and was hooked; watching the moon turn another color – especially one so powerful as red – is a surreal experience. I want to help others have this experience, but you need to know exactly when and where each eclipse is visible (since they’re not visible everywhere on earth!).

There hasn’t been a total lunar eclipse since January 20-21, 2019, so you may wonder when the next eclipse is occurring. This post has everything you need to know, including the science behind eclipses, when the next eclipse will happen, and tips on having a great viewing experience.

What is a Lunar Eclipse?

A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, earth, and moon line up such that the shadow cast by the earth passes over the moon.

Because of the distances between the sun, earth, and moon, the earth’s shadow is actually made up of two parts: the penumbra which is a fainter, less focused shadow, and the umbra, which is a more focused, darker shadow. Here’s a quick graphic to give you a sense for how this works.

Lunar Eclipse Science Graphic: How Lunar Eclipses Work

It’s important to note that the umbra and the penumbra don’t match up exactly like this – and they certainly don’t stop once they reach the moon. For this graphic, we wanted you to get a quick understanding of how the different parts of the earth’s shadow work when they pass onto the moon.

When the moon is in the earth’s shadow, it actually doesn’t turn dark: it turns red. This is due to the way light bends around the earth as it moves toward the moon. This is why a lunar eclipse is often called a blood moon.

There are three types of lunar eclipse: a partial lunar eclipse (when the moon passes partially through the earth’s umbra), a total lunar eclipse (when the moon passes totally through the earth’s umbra), and a penumbral lunar eclipse (when the moon passes only through the earth’s penumbra). Here’s a quick graphic to show you what each type looks like:

Types of Lunar Eclipses Graphic

Learn more about the types of lunar eclipses.

The May 2021 lunar eclipse is a total lunar eclipse – that means the moon will appear completely red for viewers in certain locations (which I detail more below).

The rest of this post focuses on the partial lunar eclipse in May 2021.

Important Details of May 26 Total Lunar Eclipse

2019 Lunar Eclipse - Phases of a Lunar Eclipse

When Will the Lunar Eclipse Occur in May 2021

The next lunar eclipse is a total lunar eclipse that will occur on May 26th, 2021 – this is true whether you are viewing in the far western hemisphere (where it occurs in the early morning hours) or far eastern hemisphere (where it occurs late at night). The partial phase of the total lunar eclipse begins at 9:44am UTC on May 26th, and the partial eclipse ends at 12:52pm UTC on May 26th. Here’s a table that displays the times based on various time zones within the area of totality.

Partial Eclipse Begins09:4402:4418:44
Total Eclipse Begins11:1104:1120:11
Total Eclipse Ends11:2504:2520:25
Partial Eclipse Ends12:5205:5221:52

The exact time of each phase depends on your location, so be sure to double check the time for your exact time zone!

Where Will the May 2021 Lunar Eclipse be visible?

2019 Lunar Eclipse - Lunar Eclipse over Tower

Typically, lunar eclipses are visible from a much larger part of the earth than a solar eclipse. This is true for the May 2021 lunar eclipse. The May 2021 total lunar eclipse will be visible across the Pacific Ocean and Pacific Rim. Specifically, western North America, far eastern Asia, and all of Southeast Asia and Oceania (Australia, New Zealand) will be in the area of totality. Other parts of North America, South America, and Asia will experience a partial and/or penumbral lunar eclipse.

Europe, Africa, and the Middle East will not experience any phase of this next lunar eclipse.

2021 Lunar Eclipse Map

Below you’ll find a map of the next lunar eclipse path. The countries in red will experience the total lunar eclipse. Countries in purple will experience a partial lunar eclipse, and countries in white will not experience a lunar eclipse.

Click the image to learn more about the path of the 2021 partial lunar eclipse.

Lunar Eclipse Info: Blood Moon, Astrology & More

2019 Lunar Eclipse - Photo of Total Lunar Eclipse

As mentioned, a lunar eclipse is often called a blood moon due to its distinctive reddish hue during the event. This has led to some superstitions and myths about lunar eclipses.

For example, the ancient Inca people believed a lunar eclipse was caused by a jaguar devouring the moon. They would shout and yell and shake their spears at the moon to try and scare the jaguar away. The Mesopotamians believed that all eclipses were bad omens for their rulers; they would place a ‘proxy king’ on the throne during an eclipse and hope the wrath of the gods fell on that man instead of the king. The Batammaliba people in Togo and Benin believe a lunar eclipse is a feud between the sun and moon which must be solved – and people on earth should settle their feuds during this time too.

Blood moons also play a role in astrology. While the full moon on its own is an important part of the astrological calendar and predictions about how the moon will affect our lives, a blood moon is typically interpreted by astronomers to have an even more dramatic effect – they say that what ever’s going on at that time may be even more powerful.

While lunar eclipses are astronomically interesting, these myths and legends don’t change the fact that we can predict and enjoy the next lunar eclipse whenever they occur.

Tips for Viewing the 2021 Total Lunar Eclipse

Since a lunar eclipse is visible across a greater surface of the planet, and it lasts longer, it’s much easier to see a lunar eclipse than a solar eclipse. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your experience.

Safety Tips for Viewing the Lunar Eclipse

Unlike a solar eclipse, there’s no danger from looking at the moon during a lunar eclipse. You don’t need any special equipment or to take extra precautions to enjoy a blood moon.

Even though the 2021 lunar eclipse is happening in May, it can still be chilly at night when enjoying the next lunar eclipse. Be sure to bundle up and stay warm while outside; you don’t want to get too cold to keep you from enjoying the lunar eclipse!

How to Photograph the Lunar Eclipse in 2021

Photographing a lunar eclipse is much easier than photographing a solar eclipse, partially because it lasts much longer! While totality during a solar eclipse can last anywhere between 1-10 minutes, totality for the 2021 partial is a short 14 minutes – much shorter than some. This means you’ll have a brief window to try and capture the perfect shot.

2019 Lunar Eclipse - US Army Corps of Engineers via Flickr
Photo credit: US Army Corps of Engineers via Flickr

Since lunar eclipses happen at night, it’s best to consider these astrophotography tips to help you get the perfect shot:

  • Be sure to bring the right gear. You’ll need a tripodremote, and extra batteries to help make sure your camera is stable and you don’t run out of power while shooting photos of the blood moon.
  • Set your camera on manual. You’ll want to have relatively slow shutter speed and a moderately high ISO (800-3200). Set your aperture relatively low too, so you capture enough light from the red moon in your frame.
  • Set your focus back from infinity. Though the moon is far away, you’ll want to set you manual focus slightly back from infinity to get a crisp, clear shot.

Here are some other astrophotography tips that are specific to lunar eclipses:

  • The lunar eclipse will create lighting problems. It doesn’t seem like the moon is very bright, but as you photograph a lunar eclipse, you’ll find that any sliver of the “fully lit” moon (the part not in the earth’s shadow) will appear ‘blown out’ in your photos. You’ll need to adjust your settings to let in the light from the shadowed part of the moon without washing out the bright part of the moon. This takes practice so…
  • Shoot a lot. Shoot several shots with your settings, then adjust and see what you get. A lunar eclipse is a great chance to practice astrophotography skills and still capture great shots.
  • Consider composites. As you’ve seen from some of the photos in this article, creating a composite photo of your lunar eclipse shots is a great way to visually display the whole experience!

Don’t forget to read our post on mastering astrophotography with more detail on each of these tips.

When is the Next Lunar Eclipse?

2019 Lunar Eclipse - Valerie Stimac

After the May 2021 lunar eclipse, the next lunar eclipse will occur on November 18-19, 2021. This will be a partial lunar eclipse visible across much of North America, South America, Europe, Oceania, and Asia.

The next total lunar eclipse will occur May 15-16, 2022. It will be visible across eastern North America, all of South America, and parts of Africa.

Have any questions about seeing this total lunar eclipse? Ask them in the comments!

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