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PN04/19: Lunar eclipse on 4th May

Last Updated on Friday, 16 April 2010 12:41
Published on Wednesday, 02 March 2005 00:00

When the full Moon rises over the UK on the evening of Tuesday 4 May, a total lunar eclipse will already be well under way. The sky will still be bright when the Moon first rises since the Sun does not set until a few minutes later. But as the sky darkens, a dim reddish-brown Moon should be visible (clouds permitting) climbing slowly above the south-east horizon. The total phase of the eclipse will end about 10.08 p.m. BST.

"If the weather is kind to us, this could be a very interesting sight, with the eclipsed Moon becoming more and more obvious as the sky gradually darkens after sunset and the Moon gets higher in the sky," commented Dr Jacqueline Mitton of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Lunar eclipses can only occur at full Moon. They happen when the Sun, Earth and the Moon are in a near perfect line in space and the Moon travels through the long cone-shaped shadow Earth casts in space. The Moon does not become invisible during an eclipse, but appears a dark colour - usually a shade of brown, coppery-red or orange. This is because Earth's shadow is not completely black. Our atmosphere diverts some sunlight, most of it red light, into the shadow. That makes the shadow lighter round its edge than in the middle. The colour the Moon takes on varies from one eclipse to another according to how much dust there happens to be in the atmosphere.

Lunar eclipses are a fascinating and beautiful phenomenon, and no two are quite alike, but they are of no real scientific importance in astronomical research.


  1. The partial phase of the eclipse begins at 7.48 p.m. BST. Totality begins at 8.52 p.m. and ends at 10.08 p.m. The eclipse continues as partial until 11.12 p.m.
    Times of moonrise and sunset vary considerably between different parts of the UK, for example:

    London: moonrise 8.23 p.m. BST, sunset 8.29 p.m. BST
    Edinburgh: moonrise 8.52 p.m. BST, sunset 8.59 p.m. BST
    Belfast: moonrise 8.57 p.m. BST, sunset 9.05 p.m. BST

    These times mean that the total phase of the eclipse begins shortly after moonrise in England and Wales, but totality will have just started when the Moon rises in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  2. The eclipse is visible from Europe, Africa, South America, Australasia and much of Asia, but not from North America.
  3. Another total eclipse of the Moon will be visible from the UK on 28 October 2004.

High-quality copyright photographs of past lunar eclipses are available from

Contact Fred Espenak via the web site for all uses of these images.


More technical information about this particular eclipse, and eclipses in general, is available from

Date: 27th April 2004

Issued by Jacqueline Mitton, RAS Press Officer.