Total lunar eclipses, commonly called “blood moons,” only occur during full moons, when Earth completely shields the moon from the sun. Once the sun, earth, and moon are exactly aligned, light from simultaneous sunrises and sunsets around the earth shines onto the moon, briefly causing a copper-red coating on the moon’s surface. The more dust or clouds in Earth’s atmosphere during the eclipse, the redder the moon will appear, according to NASA.
From the moon, the total lunar eclipse would shine a bright red aura around the dark surface of the Earth.
“It’s a wonderful reminder of this really special connection between the Earth, the Moon and the Sun,” said Noah Petro, a scientist with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Project.
The entire moon will glow copper red from 5:17 a.m. to 6:42 a.m. Eastern Time. But moon fanatics can wake up at 3:02 a.m. to watch the moon enter the outer part of Earth’s shadow, called the “penumbral” lunar eclipse; this will cause the moon to darken slightly. The partial eclipse, which will look like a bite out of the moon’s surface, is expected to begin at 4:09 a.m.
Everyone on the night side of Earth will be able to see the eclipse. West coast viewers will be able to watch the entire lunar eclipse uninterrupted as it will occur in the middle of the night. East Coast residents will watch the copper moon sink over the horizon due to the early sunrise times. Hawaii is “the absolute sweet spot” to view the eclipse, Petro said.
“Any place, effectively west of the central part of the country, is a bit more in a prime location,” Petro said. “Like real estate, it’s all about location.”
The first lunar eclipse of the year bathed the moon in a mantle of rusty bronze last May. Those in California and the Pacific Northwest were only able to observe the second half of the eclipse.
Photos: A blood moon lunar eclipse lights up the night sky
In any given year, there can be a minimum of two lunar eclipses and a maximum of four, Geoff Chester, astronomer and public affairs officer at the US Naval Observatory, told The Washington Post. If there are two in a year, both tend to be total lunar eclipses.
“Twice a year someone somewhere on the planet will see a total lunar eclipse if it’s a year when we have two eclipses,” Chester said.
Unlike the blinding effect of solar eclipses, no special equipment is needed to see the reddish hues, but viewing in a dark environment away from bright lights allows for better viewing, according to NASA.
Astronomers can determine total lunar eclipses years in advance through their knowledge of the moon’s orbital patterns.
“It all comes down to knowing the orbit of the moon very accurately where we can predict a solar and lunar eclipse down to the minute,” Petro told the Post.
Even though scientists can predict the exact time when the different phases of the eclipse will occur, there is one thing they cannot predict: its color. The hue of total lunar eclipses varies from one eclipse to another ranging from a coppery gold to a deep red.
“We just don’t know from eclipse to eclipse exactly [what color] we are going to arrive at the moment of totality. And that adds an element of fun,” Chester said.
This is the last time residents of the United States will be able to see a fully tinted moon until May 14, 2025. But those who miss this sighting may see partial and penumbral lunar eclipses by then.
A weak penumbral lunar eclipse is predicted for May 5-6 next year, and a partial lunar eclipse is predicted for next October 28, but neither eclipse will cause the moon to appear red.
“Each eclipse is special because they are all wonderful opportunities to get out and look at the moon, our closest neighbor in space,” Petro said.
In two years, a full solar eclipse will travel from Texas to Maine
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