Watching Lunar Eclipses
Lunar eclipses are some of the most easy-to-watch astronomical events. All you need to see them are clear skies and a pair of eyes.
Next Penumbral Lunar Eclipse: Mon, Nov 30, 2020 … See animation
Lunar eclipses occur on a full Moon night when the Sun, Earth and Moon are aligned in a straight line or almost straight line in space. Anyone on the night-side of the Earth at the time of the eclipse can see it.
Viewing a lunar eclipse, whether it is a partial, penumbral or total eclipse of the Moon, requires little effort. All you need is a clear view of the Moon and the Sky, clothes to keep your warm at night, and a chair so that you can be comfortable while watching the eclipse.
- Use our Eclipse Calculator to find out if and when you can see a lunar eclipse at your location.
- Check the weather forecast so you can be dressed accordingly.
- Find a suitable location to view the eclipse. You should be able to see a lunar eclipse as long as you are on the night-side of the Earth when the eclipse occurs. Rural areas with little or no artificial lights and pollution, however, have the clearest skies and the best viewing conditions for a lunar eclipse. Urban areas on the other hand, can provide interesting backdrops if you intend to photograph the eclipse.
- Safety first! Take your personal safety seriously. Do not be alone when venturing out in the dark and always let friends and family know where you are going.
While you don't need any special equipment for viewing a lunar eclipse, astronomers and veteran photographers recommend some things that can make your lunar eclipse viewing experience even better. These include:
- Binoculars. If you are interested in seeing the Moon's features during the eclipse, binoculars are handy to have. With binoculars, you can easily see changes in the Moon's color as the Earth's shadow moves over it. Some astronomers suggest viewing the Moon with binoculars at the start and end of totality to see a turquoise or blue band on the Moon. This band is caused by the upper, ozone-rich part of the Earth's atmosphere filtering the red wavelengths from the sunlight, giving it a blueish color.
- A telescope that is securely supported on sturdy mounting. A telescope can be helpful if you would like to see the features on the Moon in finer detail. You can also connect your DSLR camera to the telescope to get a bigger photo of the eclipsed Moon.
- You do not need any special equipment to take pictures of a lunar eclipse. A basic point and shoot or even a cell phone camera can be used to take pictures of a lunar eclipse. For taking high quality pictures of the eclipse, veteran photographers recommend connecting your camera to a telescope or using a telephoto lens.
- Tripods to keep binoculars or cameras steady.
- Extra batteries. Make sure that all batteries, flashlights, tape recorders, or video cameras are fully charged on the day of the eclipse.
- Cable releases, particularly for long focal-length shots or long exposures.
- Video cameras for those who want to capture the eclipse on video or DVD.
- Flashlights to find your way in the dark.
- A watch or stopwatch to record time.