Super Flower Blood Moon is tonight, but Mother Nature may rain on our parade


ST. LOUIS – The full moon for the month of May reaches its peak overnight. But with clouds and a chance for rain and storms, it looks like St. Louis will miss out on that and the eclipse that comes with it.

The full moon for the month of May is called the Flower Moon, a traditional name due to all the beauty this time of the year.

“The moon is used to keep track of time. The moon repeats its phases roughly every month and it is, in a lot of sense, the basis of our calendar months today,” said Will Snyder, manager of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium in Forest Park. “But before we had those calendars, people would keep track of what was happening based on what full moon they were seeing in the sky.”

The Flower Moon will also be a supermoon, or a full moon that occurs around the time the moon reaches the point in its monthly orbit where it is closest to Earth.

“When the moon is full and it’s closer to us, it can appear a little bit bigger, although you might not be able to tell,” Snyder said. “But more consequently, it will be even brighter on a night when we have a supermoon.”

May’s full moon also coincides with a total lunar eclipse for some. Lunar eclipses take place when the moon passes through Earth’s shadow.

“That happens whenever its orbit, which is tilted roughly about five degrees, passes through the part where the Earth blocks out the Sun. So, that’s always going to happen at a full moon. And a total eclipse is when it goes through the darkest part of the shadow, or the umbra,” Snyder said.

While passing through the shadow, the moon usually becomes reddish in color. That’s why a lunar eclipse is often called a “blood moon.”

“Earth’s atmosphere is a big blanket of gas and air around our planet. It really acts like a giant lens,” Snyder said. “Our sky is blue during the day because of how it scatters sunlight. And during a total lunar eclipse, with the way the light is being scattered coming through our atmosphere, the moon appears to take on that dark, red, blood-ish color.”

In the United States, the eclipse will only be visible in its totality for those living near and along the West Coast and Hawaii. Elsewhere, a partial lunar eclipse will be seen. In St. Louis, the moon will enter the outer edge of Earth’s shadow, the penumbra, at 3:47 a.m. and the partial eclipse will begin at 4:44 a.m. The peak of the eclipse in St. Louis will be at 5:42 a.m. We won’t be able to see the rest of it because of the moon setting.

Weather permitting, the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles plans to stream live views of the Super Flower Blood Moon via YouTube. The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona will also broadcast live views of the eclipse starting at 4:30 a.m. Central on YouTube.

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