Matthew Theunissen is a business reporter

A darker side of the moon

Weather permitting, a total lunar eclipse will be visible throughout NZ late Saturday night and early Sunday morning of Easter weekend. Photo / NZME.
Weather permitting, a total lunar eclipse will be visible throughout NZ late Saturday night and early Sunday morning of Easter weekend. Photo / NZME.

Sky-gazers will soon have their last chance for nearly three years to witness Earth casting its shadow across the Moon.

Weather permitting, a total lunar eclipse will be visible throughout New Zealand late Saturday night and early Sunday morning of Easter weekend.

The Earth's penumbra - its partial shadow - will first touch the Moon at 10.01pm on Saturday but it won't appear too different until it begins to enter the umbra - the darkest part of the Earth's shadow - at 11.16pm.

From then, the Earth's shadow will slowly encroach on the Moon's light until it is completely blocked out at 12.58am.

It will be in total eclipse for just 4 minutes and 43 seconds until 1.03am.

Astronomer Tom List, of Auckland's Stardome Observatory and Planetarium, said it would be impressive viewing, weather permitting.

"It's always a nice thing. It doesn't happen very often so let's hope we'll have some good weather," he said.

"You'll be able to see it and you don't need a special filter like you do with a solar eclipse.

"You will be able to just look up and you'll see it happening. It will be quite obvious.

"Just take a picnic blanket, lie down and hopefully it's a nice, calm, warm night."

The MetService long-range forecast shows next Saturday will be cloudy with some rain, although it is expected to start clearing late in the day and on Sunday.

The previous lunar eclipse above New Zealand was in October last year and another will not be visible until January 2018.

At the same time as next week's eclipse, daylight saving ends and clocks will go back one hour.


Watch up

• The eclipse will be most impressive between 11.16pm on April 4 and 2.45am on April 5.

• The Moon will be in total eclipse from 12.58am to 1.03am.

• It will be visible to the naked eye but using binoculars on a camera tripod could enhance the experience.

• If the weather is clear the eclipse will be visible throughout the country, but is seen better in dark sky away from city lights.

• Auckland's Stardome will be open for the event.

- Herald on Sunday

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