With many celestial events occurring every year, the night sky is one of the few places left where you can experience genuine awe and wonder. This weekend, you have the opportunity to view a spectacular lunar eclipse.

If you are in a part of the world that can see the moon on May 15, you will be able to view it with the naked eye. However, to get the most out of the event — and to document it — there are a few pieces of equipment, such as a telescope and a camera, you’ll want to have on hand.

What is a lunar eclipse?

Celestial events have cool names. “Lunar eclipse” sounds like something that happens on an immense scale. To be fair, since it involves the largest celestial body in our solar system, it does. However, when you look at it on the most basic level, an eclipse is just a shadow.

There are three items you need to create a lunar eclipse: the moon, a light source and an object that makes the shadow. The light source is the sun, and the object that makes the shadow is the earth. When the earth passes between the sun and the moon, and all three celestial bodies are in a straight line, it casts a shadow on the moon. This is called a lunar eclipse.

Why is it called a blood moon?

A lunar eclipse is also known as a blood moon. This is because the moon has a red hue during a lunar eclipse. Oddly enough, red is the color of the earth’s shadow when it falls on the moon.

You might wonder how a shadow can be red and not black. The earth doesn’t block all the light from reaching the moon. Instead, the light bends (or refracts) around the earth, thanks to its atmosphere. While the light of shorter wavelengths, such as violet, blue and green, is scattered during this phenomenon, the light of longer wavelengths, including red, orange and yellow, makes it through to fall on the moon. This gives the moon its red coloring during a lunar eclipse. Consequently, the same thing happens at sunrise and sunset as the light bends through the earth’s atmosphere.

Is it safe to look at a lunar eclipse?

Unlike a solar eclipse, which could permanently damage your retinas in a very brief period, it is safe to view a lunar eclipse. You can watch a lunar eclipse because you are not looking at the sun. The red light of a lunar eclipse is reflected light. You have no more risk of damaging your eyes from watching a lunar eclipse than you would by looking at the full moon.

How often does a lunar eclipse happen?

Because the moon’s orbital plane is tilted roughly 5 degrees, the sun, earth and moon only line up about two times each year. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you can see two lunar eclipses every year. If you happen to be on the right part of the planet when this alignment happens, you can view the lunar eclipse. If you are on the wrong side of the earth, you will have to wait until an eclipse happens in your region to be able to view it. The upcoming lunar eclipse will be visible to most of North America, all of South America, all of Central and Western Europe, and most of Africa. This means roughly 2.7 billion people can watch the lunar eclipse.

When is the lunar eclipse happening?

The lunar eclipse takes place at exactly the same moment everywhere. Because of different time zones, however, the local time for viewing the lunar eclipse will be different.

  • EDT: The lunar eclipse will begin on Sunday, May 15 at 11:29 p.m. and conclude at 12:53 a.m. on Monday, May 16 with the peak viewing time being 12:11 a.m. on May 16.
  • CDT: The lunar eclipse will begin on Sunday, May 15 at 10:29 p.m. and conclude at 11:53 p.m. with the peak viewing time being 11:11 p.m. 
  • MDT: The lunar eclipse will begin on Sunday, May 15 at 9:29 p.m. and conclude at 10:53 p.m. with the peak viewing time being 10:11 p.m.  
  • PDT: The lunar eclipse will begin on Sunday, May 15 at 8:29 p.m. and conclude at 9:53 p.m. with the peak viewing time being 9:11 p.m.  

What you need to view (and capture) the lunar eclipse

Gskyer Telescope

Gskyer Telescope

This telescope is easy to set up. It has three eyepieces, a 3 times magnification Barlow lens and a finder scope. The adjustable tripod accommodates a wide variety of viewing positions, and the coated glass enhances image brightness to provide a better viewing experience. 

Sold by Amazon

Barska 675 Power Starwatcher Telescope

Barska 675 Power Starwatcher Telescope

This beginner’s telescope comes with a moon filter, two eyepieces, a 3 times magnification Barlow lens and a red dot finderscope. The 675 power magnification is suitable for astronomical viewing, while the equatorial mount makes it easier to track objects as they move through the night sky. 

Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods

Adasion Monocular Telescope

Adasion Monocular Telescope

For people who want an extremely portable option, Adhesion’s monocular telescope is designed to perform in low light conditions. It has a large eyepiece for increased comfort and it is compatible with a Bluetooth remote shutter for one-click photos. 

Sold by Amazon

Celestron SkyMaster Binoculars

Celestron SkyMaster Binoculars

If you prefer binoculars, this model offers 25 times magnification. The low light, long-range functionality makes these binoculars suitable for terrestrial or astronomical viewing. The rubber coating gives you a secure grip, and the long eye relief is ideal for astronomers who wear glasses. 

Sold by Amazon

Canon EOS 2000D 28-Piece Bundle

Canon EOS 2000D 28-Piece Bundle

This comprehensive bundle comes with everything you need to not only take some epic blood moon photos but to launch a brand new photography career. You get multiple lenses, a storage case, a tripod, cleaning supplies and more. 

Sold by Amazon

 

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