Red moon over Perth on

The highlight of our live coverage of yesterday’s total lunar eclipse on were the jaw-droppingly beautiful images from the Perth Observatory: a huge, huge thank you to Matt Woods, Roger Groom, Ken Stranger, Francesca Flynn and the rest of the brilliant team in Western Australia.

Below is the segment of our live coverage that covered the time of maximum eclipse.

Thank you also to Ed Krupp and his wonderful team at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, who provided us with stunning images from a northern hemisphere perspective.

Also, many thanks to Susumu Takahashi at the Dynic Astropark near Kyoto. Sadly, the weather was not kind to us here in Japan, but Takahashi-san did manage to capture this photo through the clouds near the time of maximum eclipse:

The next total lunar eclipse will be around six months from now on July 27th/28th.


Countdown to the January 31st total lunar eclipse

On January 31st 2018 – for the first time time since September 2015 – the moon, earth and sun will become aligned and produce a total lunar eclipse. Across Asia and Australia the event will be visible after sunset; in North America, on the other side of the international date line, it will be visible before sunrise.

Once again, I’ll be part of’s live coverage of the event. I’ll be at the Dynic Astropark, about 50 km north-east of Kyoto. We’re also hoping to have live feeds from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, and the Perth Observatory in Western Australia.

UPDATE (January 29th): here at our location in Japan, the weather forecast for January 31st is not good…

What is the saros cycle and how does it foretell eclipses?

My latest article for Sky & Telescope begins 2,500 years ago in ancient Babylon, and ends with next week’s total lunar eclipse.

Sky and Telescope, 24 January 2018

Coming soon to a sky near you: a teachable moment

There are 100 days to go until the next eclipse… On January 31st 2018 a total lunar eclipse will produce a red full moon for people in parts of Asia, Australia and the Pacific, and North America.

Total lunar eclipse (Juan Carlos Casado)Image: Juan Carlos Casado

Why does the moon turn red? The earth – a rocky planet about 13,000 km across – moves between the sun and the moon. This blocks the sun’s rays from reaching the moon directly.

But the earth has an atmosphere – a layer of air about 100 km thick. The atmosphere bends some of the sun’s rays around the earth (this is called refraction; it’s why a straw looks bent when you see it in a glass of water). The atmosphere also filters out the blue colour from the sun’s rays (this is called scattering; it’s why the sky looks blue).

So the sun’s rays that eventually reach the moon – after having travelled around the earth, through the atmosphere – are red. This is what gives the moon its awe-inspiring change of colour.

If you miss the red moon in January – because of weather, geography or some other reason – you might get another chance six months later. On July 27th/28th 2018 there will be a total lunar eclipse across Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. And six months after that – on January 20th/21st 2019 – there will be another total lunar eclipse across North America, South America, Europe and parts of Africa.

Thank you to the brilliant Science Learning Hub for the pages on refraction and scattering.


The Great American Eclipse on

It has been a tremendous privilege to work with the incredible team at on a five-and-a-half hour live broadcast of the Great American Eclipse.

One of the highlights was the screams of schoolchildren when darkness fell upon Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green:

There are more of our Great American Eclipse interviews and videos on the YouTube channel.

Thank you to everyone who made our broadcast possible, including:

  • Theo Wellington, Jordan Basham and Dr Richard Gelderman at Western Kentucky University
  • Joel Donadel and Noémi Brousmiche at the European Space Agency in Kourou, French Guiana
  • Erwan Prigent and everyone at the PULSAR Kourou Astronomy Club
  • Professor Gordon Orians, University of Washington
  • Monica Young, Sky & Telescope
  • Julie Fooshee, Science Festival Alliance, MIT Museum
  • Dr Jaya Satagopan
  • Martin Stack, Mid Michigan Community College
  • Marcia Witt
  • Dr Donald Bruns
  • Dawn Davis, Fort Sumter National Monument (South Carolina)
  • Jimmie Lucht, Albany Visitors Association (Oregon)
  • Charissa Sedor, Carnegie Science Center’s Buhl Planetarium (Pennsylvania)
  • Hadley Andersen, Bishop Museum (Hawaii)
  • Rocío Guadalupe Salazar Bastarrachea (Mérida, Mexico)
  • Famri Rusdin (Palu, Indonesia)

“Eclipsim”, and other eclipse stories

Image: Cali Soper

An enormous thank you to everyone who took part in our Science + Stories creative-writing competition, organised in partnership with the North Platte Bulletin and A to Z Books.

Throughout history – across all cultures and societies – people have reacted eclipses by creating stories, from hungry cosmic dogs to combative giant birds. We challenged children in west central Nebraska to write their own version of an eclipse myth, and we were completely dazzled by the originality and creativity of the entries we received.

Congratulations to our five winners, who each receive a copy of the National Geographic Space Encyclopedia:

  • Rebecca Kneipp (3rd grade)
  • Mason Kroon (4th grade)
  • Amanda Phillips (5th grade)
  • Cali Soper (13)
  • Joanna Smith (14)

Cali Soper turned her story into a stunning video, which we broadcast during our live coverage of the eclipse on

Thank you to George Lauby and the brilliant team at the North Platte Bulletin, plus the wonderful folks at A to Z Books, for making this competition possible.

Creating new connections across Asia

Image: IMDb, Fantastic Mr. Fox

Last year we launched a total eclipse collaboration between students at Tadulako University (Indonesia) and Western Kentucky University (USA); we also set up an annular and partial eclipse collaboration involving Kobe Shinwa Women’s University (Japan) and the University of Mahajanga (Madagascar). Both these projects included remote teambuilding activities where we did online read-throughs of the science-fiction movie “Europa Report”.

This month we are excited to be meeting old friends and creating new connections! We are bringing together students from Tadulako University, Kobe Shinwa Women’s University and Amagasaki-Kita High School (Japan) for two online read-throughs of the stop-motion animation “Fantastic Mr. Fox”.

Students at Tadulako University preparing for this month’s read-through.

The goals of the project – which involve students from Indonesia, Japan, China and Vietnam – are for students to make new connections, practise English communication skills, and have fun!

As Mr. Fox himself says, in one of cinema’s most inspiring monologues:

I think it may very well be all the beautiful differences among us that just might give us the tiniest glimmer of a chance of saving my nephew and letting me make it up to you for getting us into this crazy whatever-it-is. I don’t know. It’s just a thought. Thank you for listening. Cheers, everyone.


We are extremely grateful to everyone who has made this collaboration possible, including Elisa Sesa, Darmawati Darwis, Marsetyo Marsetyo and Mohammad Zulfikar at Tadulako University; Ritsuko Anzai at Amagasaki-Kita High School; and Keisuke Tabata at Kobe Shinwa Women’s University.

Thank you also to Wes Anderson, who has given generously given us a copy of the original script for “Fantastic Mr. Fox”.

Deadline approaching for essay contest

The deadline is approaching for our Science + Stories creative-writing competition, being run in partnership with the North Platte Bulletin and A to Z Books.

We’re challenging people of all ages in west central Nebraska to write their own version of an eclipse myth. The winning authors will receive a copy of the National Geographic Space Encyclopedia, and the deadline for entries is Monday July 31st.

(As always, thank you to Neil Pitts for the brilliant dog cartoon!)

Mystery of the moon’s tilted orbit

I’m extremely grateful to the brilliant planetary scientist Kaveh Pahlevan, who shared some wonderful thoughts in this interview for EarthSky. “When a crime happens, investigative police quickly arrive on the scene and try to preserve the evidence. In the case of the moon’s origin, there was a violent event, but there were no witnesses, and we are arriving on the scene five billion years late!”

Join us for live coverage of the August 21st total solar eclipse, the world’s most popular time zone-related website, will be broadcasting a live stream of the total solar eclipse across the United States on August 21st.

I’ll be joining the team at their HQ in Stavanger, Norway, to present live coverage of events in the sky and on the ground. Our coverage will include:

  • Live telescope feeds from our friends at Slooh
  • Live maps and animations showing the progress of the eclipse
  • Live reports and updates from our correspondents across North America
  • The best photos and videos from social media and the community

Theo Wellington, a NASA ambassador and eclipse evangelist, will be bringing us updates and interviews from an exciting schools’ event being held in a football stadium at Western Kentucky University. “It’s not a science thing; it is a human thing,” says Richard Gelderman, a professor of physics and astronomy at the university.

Image: Western Kentucky University

The August 21st eclipse begins in the Pacific Ocean at 15:46 UTC, and ends in the Atlantic Ocean at 21:04 UTC. We will cover the entire event on’s live page:

Just for fun, we’ll be trying a live ‘experiment’ on the day… Just before sunset, the edge of the moon’s shadow reaches the edge of western Europe. In Stavanger there will be a 0.5% partial eclipse (in other words, half of one per cent of the sun’s disk will be covered by the moon). With the the sun hanging just above the horizon, will this extremely tiny ‘nick’ be visible in our telescope at’s HQ…?

By the way, have you seen’s new tool showing the Distance, Brightness, and Size of Planets? (Which body is closest to us right now: Venus, Mercury or the Sun? What will happen over the next few weeks?)