The Lunar Eclipse happening this Monday (or Sunday, if you live on the wrong side of the date line) is not going to be visible from New Zealand or Australia unfortunately. It’s not the end of the world though as early on Tuesday morning you’ll be able to see a wonderful conjunction of the Moon and the Beehive Cluster – the kicker is that the Moon will well and truly overwhelm any light coming from the cluster so the view won’t actually be that great. Of course missing the Lunar Eclipse might cause a few folk to lament the missed opportunity while we jealously thumb (swipe) through the awesome photos that will likely fill the internet on Tuesday morning. Trying to be a bit more positive about this we thought it would be good to plan ahead and see what’s coming up in the next year or so.
The good news is that you will not have to worry too much about staying up late to watch anymore lunar eclipses this year as the next Lunar Eclipse, visible from Wellington, will be just in the penumbra starting at a nice and convenient 6:45am on the morning of 17 July. Those observing from Australia get a much better show that steadily improves and gets earlier the further West you are. Unfortunately the next Lunar Eclipse is not until 2022 on the 17 May, but you’ll need to be on a cruise ship half way to Chile to catch that one.
A much better situation, if you like travelling, is the opportunity to see a total Solar Eclipse on 2 July this year in Chile and Argentina. This eclipse cuts across the South Pacific Ocean starting a few hundred kilometres off New Zealand’s East coast and tracks across South America, terminating just South of Buenos Aries. Then, on Boxing day this year, there’s an annular eclipse that goes from the Persian Gulf, past India, through Indonesia and terminates in the mid Pacific Ocean. An Annular Eclipse is when the Moon is the farthest from the Earth so it doesn’t completely cover the Sun.
So that’s it, not much happening for eclipses in the next couple of years in this part of the world. Now if you thought, well that’s ok, I’ll just watch the transit of Mercury on 11 Nov this year, then that’s a little disappointing as well. Fortunately in New Zealand we will see the egress of the transit on the morning of the 12 November but in Australia you’ll miss the whole event. The transit of Mercury will be particularly auspicious for New Zealand as it was 250 years ago this year that James Cook and his crew observed a transit of Mercury from where Auckland is now on 9 November 1769.