Astronomical sights from Bird Island, including a lunar eclipse on 7 August 2017

Fly me to the moon! (Photo: Chris Feare)

During the evening of 7 August, the shadow of the earth will move across the face of the full moon. In Seychelles this will be visible as a partial eclipse, at its maximum with about a quarter of the moon’s surface in shadow, at about twenty minutes past ten.

For the eclipse enthusiast, however, the major event will be 27-28 July next year, when a lunar eclipse that begins at a quarter past nine in the evening of 27 July, reaches totality, when the entire moon’s surface will be in shadow, at twenty past midnight on 28 July and then the earth’s shadow leaves the moon at about half past three that morning.

Bird Island, with its generally clearer skies than on the granitic islands of Seychelles, is a good place to witness this astronomical event.

In fact Bird Island, with its very limited light pollution from which a short walk will free an observer completely, is a wonderful place to look at the tropical night sky, especially over the new moon period when the milky way can be seen stretching across from one horizon to the other.

At present, Jupiter shines brightly in the western sky and with binoculars it is possible to see its four largest moons. On the beach at night we frequently see satellites orbiting the earth and the much brighter International Space Station occasionally puts in an appearance. The highlight, which usually requires more patience, is to see meteors (shooting stars) as they streak through the earth’s atmosphere. At certain times of year, however, the chance of seeing meteors is greater as the earth passes through patches of space  dust, which produce meteor showers that can sometimes be spectacular displays.

For further information on lunar eclipses see: https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/seychelles/victoria

For information on meteor showers see: http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/earthskys-meteor-shower-guide

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