During the early hours on Tuesday, the face of the moon will darken before turning a deep blood red. No, it’s not an Election Day omen — it’s one of the most fascinating sights in the night sky.
Anyone who wakes up in the United States will have a front-row seat as the Sun, Earth and Moon line up, causing the Moon to pass through Earth’s shadow in the last total lunar eclipse by 2025.
“To me, the most important thing about an eclipse is that it gives you a sense of three-dimensional geometry that you rarely get in space – one orbit passing through the shadow of another,” Bruce Bates. said Planetary Society.
Here’s what you need to know about viewing the lunar eclipse.
When and where to watch the lunar eclipse?
In North America, observers on the West Coast will have the best view. At 12:02 a.m. Pacific Time, the Moon will enter the outer part of Earth’s umbra and become slightly dimmer. But the total phase of the eclipse — the real star of the show — won’t begin until 2:16 a.m. This phase is called totality, when the moon enters the darkest part of Earth’s shadow and glows a deep blood red. Is. Totality will last about 90 minutes until 3:41 a.m., and the moon will return to its familiar silver hue by 5:56 a.m.
“The big problem here would be that this is before Election Day,” said University of San Francisco astronomer Andrew Fraknoi. “I joke that a lot of people are so nervous about Election Day this year that they’ll probably stay up all night, and they can watch it.”
East Coast viewers, on the other hand, will have to set their alarms early. Although they won’t be able to see the total eclipse, they can see the totality, which will last from 5:16 a.m. to 6:41 a.m. ET, roughly when the moon will set over the northeastern United States. I will sunset. Early risers should look to the northwest horizon to catch the ruby moon.
For those in the Midwest, tomorrow the moon will turn red between 4:16 a.m. and 5:41 a.m. Central Time, and for those in the Rocky Mountains, totality will occur an hour earlier.
Beyond North and Central America, skywatchers will be able to observe the eclipse in East Asia and Australia, where it will occur in the early evening after the moon rises. of NASA Visibility map Provides more details.
No matter where you are and what phase of the eclipse is happening, it’s safe to see it with your unaided eyes.
What makes a blood moon?
It may come as a surprise that the Moon doesn’t just darken as it enters Earth’s shadow. This is because moonlight usually reflects only sunlight. And while much of that sunlight is blocked during an eclipse, some of it wraps around the edges of our planet — the edges that are currently experiencing sunrise and sunset. It filters out the shorter, blue wavelengths and allows only the red, longer wavelengths to hit the moon.
“The romantic way to look at it is that it’s like seeing all the sunsets and sunrises on Earth at once,” Dr Bates said.
This approach is quite different from that of some of our ancestors. “For many cultures, the disappearance of the moon was seen as a time of danger, of chaos,” said Shaneel Virani, an astronomer at George Washington University.
For example, the Incas believed that a jaguar attacked the moon during a lunar eclipse. The people of Mesopotamia saw this as an attack on their king. In ancient Hindu mythology, a demon swallowed the moon.
But not all lunar eclipses result in deep red, leading to the “blood moon” nickname. Just as the intensity of a sunrise or sunset can vary from day to day, so can the colors of an eclipse. It mostly depends on the particles in our planet’s atmosphere. Smoke from wildfires or volcanic dust can darken the red color of a sunset, and they can also affect the color of an eclipsing moon. But if the atmosphere is particularly clear during the eclipse, more light will pass through, leading to a pale red moon, perhaps even a red-orange.