Sally of As Perdido has dusted the chairs in the patio and taken the binoculars out of the closet to get ready to watch the lunar eclipse that will start tonight between 9pm and 9:30pm. Aside from experiencing a natural wonder, she wants to make tonight an educational journey for her children. Elsewhere on island, some people are going to run in the jungle in hopes of glimpsing the eclipse on a trail.
These and many other things that people plan to do tonight are not an indication of crazy things that only happens when there is a full moon. What is special about tonight’s eclipse is that the moon will be a supermoon—which means it will be at its closest point as it orbits the Earth. The close distance will make the moon appear 10% larger in the Marianas sky. Also, it’s the first lunar eclipse since January 2019 and may be the only lunar eclipse visible in the Marianas for the next years.
A lunar eclipse happens when the Earth moves between the sun and the moon, which blocks the Sun’s light from reaching the moon. Tonight’s phenomenon is believed to last two hours. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Earth will be engulfed in darkness, like the “Fold”’ in the Netflix TV series Shadow and Bone. Instead, the moon will appear to be red or bright red-orange. Scientists say that the sun’s rays are made up of colors that we see in rainbows: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. When the rays of the Sun hit the Earth, most colors are scattered away, leaving red as the only visible color.
In olden days, people harbored superstitious beliefs about lunar eclipses, either as a harbinger of evil or a prophecy coming true. For animals both on land and water, very few facts are known as to what effect a lunar eclipse has on them. However, according to an online website called “The Conversation,” nocturnal animals like the owl monkeys in Argentina refrain from hunting for food during a lunar eclipse because their habitat became darker. It also mentioned that the bright light of a supermoon wakes the geese, causing their heart rate and body temperature to increase in preparation for daytime.
Here on Saipan, marine science technical advisor Lyza Johnston said the full moon is linked to coral spawning. Coral spawning is likened to coral mating. “This happens on corals located anywhere around the islands—inside or outside the lagoons anytime from one to eight days after the full moon in the summers,” she said.
“My company, Johnston Applied Marine Sciences, is currently working on a spawning project with marine biologist Kelsey McClellan, local project partners, and volunteers to observe spawning and collect spawn for the Ruth Gates project. We will be going out starting Thursday in hopes of collecting spawn to sexually propagate corals for larger scale restoration efforts,” she added.
Sally’s next educational journey with her children on the patio or that next fun run in the jungle perhaps will be on June 10, 2021, during a solar eclipse that naturally happens two weeks after a lunar eclipse. Before 2021 ends, expect a partial lunar eclipse on Nov. 19 and a total solar eclipse on Dec. 4.