Stargazers should keep a close watch on the skies this week as some amazing astronomical events are expected. A partial lunar eclipse will begin tonight while the Perseids, a spectacular meteor shower, will be visible on Friday.
The partial lunar eclipse will start at 11.48pm tonight, with the maximum eclipse – when a quarter of the moon will be obscured – occurring at 2.21am, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.
The eclipse will last until 4.53am, giving viewers plenty of time to catch the phenomenon.
As the moon will be quite high in the sky during the eclipse, the Observatory said, most places with an unobstructed view of the horizon to the south and southwest will be suitable viewing locations if the weather permits.
Clear skies and high temperatures are expected tonight, according to the Observatory’s website. The last lunar eclipse seen in Hong Kong happened earlier this year, during the Spring Lantern Festival on February 11.
Lunar eclipses occur when the Earth blocks the sun’s light, which normally reflects off the moon. There are three types of eclipses – total, partial and penumbral – with the most dramatic being a total lunar eclipse, in which the Earth’s shadow completely covers the moon. A minimum of at least two lunar eclipses take place in a calendar year. The next observable lunar eclipse is expected to occur on 31 January, 2018, and is said to be a total eclipse.
Meanwhile, the Perseid meteor shower will occur on Friday night. The shower, dubbed “the tears of St Lawrence” in honour of a martyred Christian saint, was first recorded in China around 2,000 years ago.
Hong Kong Joint School Astronomical Society honorary advisor Phil Lee told Young Post on Friday that the shower will be peaking and therefore offering its most impressive views, with 150 meteors crossing the sky every hour from 9pm to 11.30pm on Friday.
“If the weather conditions are fine, it’s not difficult to see the meteors,” Lee said. “It will last until August 24, but it’s not easy to observe as only about 10 meteors would fall per hour. You can see these meteors with the naked eye. The best viewing points in the city include Sai Kung and Lantau Island.”
The next impressive meteor shower is expected to occur on December 14, when the Geminid meteor will peak. Around 120 meteors will cross the sky every hour during the peak period.