SINGAPORE – Many Singaporeans had their gazes trained on the sky on Wednesday evening (Jan 31), with some peering through telescopes to catch a rare astronomical event also witnessed by others around the world.
A lunar eclipse, a blue moon and a supermoon occurred simultaneously – in a rare coincidence which last happened on March 31, 1866.
About 5,000 visitors flocked to The Observatory at The Science Centre Singapore to use one of 11 telescopes set up to catch the rare lunar eclipse. A special viewing session was held from 7.30pm to 10.30pm.
At around 8.50pm, a full eclipse was visible, prompting visitors to whip out their phones and cameras to capture the moment.
Ms Sally Sun, 28, a mechanical engineer, who viewed the full eclipse through one of the telescopes, said: “There was a gradient of brown to red. I’ve seen the blood moon in many photos, but it’s amazing and meaningful to see it for yourself, as I’m a big fan of astronomy.”
Mr Karthik Addagarla, 30, an operations manager, had to queue at the Science Centre for about two hours. “It was worth my time. This is a rare phenomenon. Through the telescope, I could see the red moon much clearer than with the naked eye.”
Over at National Junior College (NJC), about 300 people gathered at the eight observation decks set up at NJC to see the astronomical phenomenon.
They included the college’s students and their parents along with staff and their families.
NJC also invited students and teachers from other schools, including Greenridge Primary, Northland Secondary, and Kranji Secondary.
Explaining the blood moon phenomenon, chief executive of Science Centre Singapore Lim Tit Meng said that sunlight is of multiple wavelengths, and longer wavelengths, such as those of a red colour, are deflected and cast onto the moon during the lunar eclipse.
The shorter wavelengths are instead scattered into the atmosphere, said Associate Professor Lim.
Prof Lim said: “We want to use our event to promote awareness and to educate the public and visitors on astronomy. Science comes from observation of nature… who knows, among the young visitors, some of them may become space scientists.”
It was almost 152 years when the lunar eclipse, a blue moon and a supermoon happened at the same time.
A lunar eclipse is when the moon enters the earth’s shadow. When there is a total lunar eclipse, the moon takes on a red colour and is known as a blood moon.
Because the full moon on Wednesday night will be the second full moon of the month, it is dubbed a blue moon. It does not appear blue, but is given the name for its rarity as it occurs once every two years and eight months.
As for the supermoon, the term refers to when a full moon coincides with the moon being the closest to earth.
Apart from Asia, astronomy enthusiasts in other parts of the world, such as western North America, the Middle East, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand, could also observe the rare cosmic event.
Mr Vincen Lim, 36, an analyst, and his four-year-old son Raynor queued for about an hour and a half to enter The Observatory. “The moon looked greyish in colour. It was not the full eclipse yet. Still, it was a good opportunity to expose my son to astronomy,” Mr Lim said.