Total lunar eclipses, commonly known as “blood moons,” occur only when the Earth blocks the moon from the sun. Once the Sun, Earth, and Moon are perfectly aligned, simultaneous sunrise and sunset light shines onto the Moon, creating a coppery red coat on the Moon in no time. The more dust or clouds in Earth’s atmosphere during the eclipse, the redder the moon appears, according to NASA.
Starting with the Moon, a total lunar eclipse shines a bright red aura around Earth’s dark surface.
“This is a fascinating reminder of the unique relationship between the Earth, the Moon and the Sun,” said Noah Petro, project scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
From 5:17 a.m. to 6:42 a.m. ET, the full moon glows copper-red. But moon fanatics can wake up at 3:02 a.m. to see the moon enter the outer part of Earth’s shadow, a so-called “penumbral” lunar eclipse. This causes the moon to dim slightly. The partial eclipse, which looks like a bite out of the moon, is scheduled to begin at 4:09 am.
Anyone on Earth at night can see the eclipse. Viewers on the west coast will be able to see the total lunar eclipse without interruption because it will occur in the middle of the night. Residents on the East Coast watch the copper moon set over the horizon during sunrise. According to Petro, Hawaii is the perfect place to watch the eclipse.
“Anywhere west of the central part of the country is a little bit more prime,” Petro said. “Like real estate, it’s all about location.”
The first lunar eclipse of the year last May bathed the moon in a coat of rusty bronze. People in California and the Pacific Northwest were only able to see the second half of the eclipse.
Photos: Blood Moon A lunar eclipse lights up the night sky
Geoff Chester, astronomer and public affairs officer at the U.S. Naval Observatory, told The Washington Post that there could be at least two lunar eclipses and as many as four in any given year. If there are two in a year, they will both be total lunar eclipses.
“Twice a year, someone on our planet sees a total lunar eclipse if it’s a year with two eclipses,” Chester said.
Unlike the blinding effects of a solar eclipse, seeing red doesn’t require special equipment, but viewing it in a dark environment away from bright light can improve vision, according to NASA.
Because of their knowledge of the moon’s orbital position, astronomers can predict total lunar eclipses years in advance.
“It all depends on getting the moon’s orbit right,” 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 shade of a total lunar eclipse varies from eclipse to eclipse, from coppery golden to deep red.
“We don’t really know from eclipse to eclipse. [what color] We are in full time. And that adds an element of fun,” Chester said.
This is the last time residents across the United States will see a fully colored moon until May 14, 2025. But those who missed this view can see partial and total lunar eclipses between now and then.
A faint penumbra lunar eclipse is due on May 5 and May 6 next year, and a partial lunar eclipse is set for next October 28, but neither eclipse will make the moon appear red.
“Each eclipse is unique 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 total solar eclipse will travel from Texas to Maine