How to maximize your chances of seeing the Supermoon total lunar eclipse

Surrounded by stars, the eclipsed moon turns red over Mount Baker in 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The only total lunar eclipse of 2021 will also be one of the shortest total lunar eclipses in recent years, lasting just less than 15 minutes. And it’s not exactly the easiest one to see in the Seattle area, due to its timing as well as the weather.

Earth’s shadow will start creeping across the full moon’s disk at 1:47 a.m. PT on Wednesday, and the eclipse will reach totality at 4:11 a.m. Because this particular eclipse has the moon passing so close to the edge of Earth’s umbra — that is, the shadow’s darkest part — the moon starts brightening up again at 4:25 a.m. in the dawn’s early light.

The forecast for Western Washington poses even more of a challenge for skywatchers. “Conditions not looking favorable at this time,” the National Weather Service’s Seattle bureau told me in a tweet. Even if it’s not actually raining, overcast skies could well spoil the view.

“Best advice at this time is to a) get some elevation above low clouds or b) go east of the Cascade crest,” forecasters said.

Location, location, location. Note the stark difference between Poulsbo & 5,000 feet up in the Olympics at Hurricane Ridge this AM. For those wishing to see the early Wed AM lunar eclipse, your best bets will be: (a) higher elevations or ( b) locations east of the Cascades. #wawx pic.twitter.com/t9KVMj5CJS

— NWS Seattle (@NWSSeattle) May 25, 2021

The eclipse isn’t the only thing that’s notable about Wednesday’s full moon: Thanks to variations in the moon’s orbit around our planet, it’s also the biggest full moon of the year. That qualifies it as a Supermoon under virtually any definition of the word. (I personally prefer declaring just one Supermoon in the course of a year, but some definitions allow for three in 2021, including last month’s full moon and the one coming up next month.)

If the stars align, eclipse watchers should be able to see the darkened moon turn a dusky red or brown, due to the sunlight refracted by Earth’s atmosphere. That’s why a total lunar eclipse is often called a “blood moon.” What’s more, the full moon of May is traditionally called the Flower Moon. Put them all together, and you get “Super Flower Blood Moon” as a headline-grabbing title for this week’s event.

There are alternatives for those who aren’t able to see the Super Flower Blood Moon in the flesh: Space.com has rounded up several webcasts that will offer streaming video from locales more likely to have clear skies, ranging from California and Arizona to Hawaii and Australia.

And there’s always next year: Two total lunar eclipses will take place in 2022, on May 15-16 and Nov. 8. The November event is better-suited for Northwest skywatchers.

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