This month’s column from the Dublin Informer.
This month there are two extra special sights to see that you simply cannot miss. First up is a total lunar eclipse – and the last such eclipse that we will see over Ireland until 2015 – on June 15th at 10pm. A lunar eclipse happens when the Moon and Sun are located exactly opposite each other in the sky, putting Earth in between them. Earth’s shadow is cast through space and falls on the Moon, enshrouding it in darkness. But that’s not all: in total lunar eclipses – like we will see this month – all of our planets red sunrises and sunsets shine on the Moon, bathing it in a crimson glow. From Dublin, skywatchers will see the Moon rise already totally covered and red at 10pm. As it makes its way over the horizon, that redness will turn to darkness, and the Moon will look like a bite has been taken out of it. Check out www.astronomy.ie for more details on the eclipse, and make sure you send your photos of the Moon to Astronomy Ireland!
The second amazing thing to see is a sight that usually only occurs throughout the summer months. If you’re out late, you will notice that the sky does not get completely dark, and a faint glow from the Sun is visible to the north. In the couple of hours around midnight, the Sun can sometimes illuminate faint, wispy clouds that are located 80km above the ground, almost at the edge of space. These are called noctilucent clouds, and are invisible during the day.
Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) are an eerie yet spectacular sight. They cannot be missed as they look like no other cloud you will have seen, glowing electric blue and bright yellow, almost like a web in the northern sky. If you don’t see them one night, don’t worry; keep checking regularly around this time of year and you should get to see them!