Total lunar eclipses, commonly known as “blood moons,” only occur during full moons when the 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 is projected onto the moon, briefly causing a coppery-red coating on the moon’s surface. The more dust or clouds there are in Earth’s atmosphere during the eclipse, the redder the moon will appear, according to POT.
From the moon, the total lunar eclipse would cast a bright red aura around Earth’s dark surface.
“It’s a wonderful reminder of this really special connection between the Earth, the Moon and the Sun,” said Noah Petro, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist.
The entire moon will glow coppery red from 5:17 a.m. to 6:42 a.m. ET. But moon fans can wake up at 3:02 am to see the moon enter the outer part of Earth’s shadow, known as a “penumbral” lunar eclipse; this will make the moon slightly darker. The partial eclipse, which will look like a bite taken out of the moon’s surface, is scheduled to begin at 4:09 a.m.
Everyone on the night side of the Earth will be able to see the eclipse. West Coast viewers will be able to watch the full lunar eclipse without interruption because it will occur in the middle of the night. Residents of the East Coast will see the copper moon sink into the horizon due to the early hours of sunrise. Hawaii is the “absolute sweet spot” to watch the eclipse, Petro said.
“Anywhere, effectively west of the central part of the country, is in a slightly more privileged location,” Petro said. “Just like real estate, it’s all about location.”
The first lunar eclipse of the year bathed the moon in a blanket of oxidized bronze last May. Those in California and the Pacific Northwest were only able to see the second half of the eclipse.
In a given year there can be a minimum of two lunar eclipses and a maximum of four, Geoff Chester, an astronomer and public affairs officer at the US Naval Observatory, told The Washington Post. If there are two in a year, they 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 where we have two eclipses,” Chester said.
Unlike the blinding effect of solar eclipses, you don’t need special equipment to see reddish hues, but viewing in a dark environment away from bright lights is the best viewing, according to NASA.
Astronomers can determine total lunar eclipses years in advance due to their knowledge of the moon’s orbital patterns.
“It all comes down to knowing the orbit of the moon very exactly where we can predict a solar and lunar eclipse down to the minute,” Petro told The Post.
Although scientists can predict the exact timing of the different phases of the eclipse, there is one thing they cannot predict: its color. The hue of total lunar eclipses varies from one eclipse to another, from a coppery gold to a deep red.
“We just don’t know exactly from eclipse to eclipse [what color] we will arrive at the moment of totality. And that adds an element of fun to it,” said Chester.
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 will be able to see penumbra and partial lunar eclipses between now and then.
A dim penumbral lunar eclipse is scheduled for May 5-6 next year, and a partial lunar eclipse is scheduled for next October 1. 28, but none of these eclipses will make the moon look 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.
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