A total lunar eclipse will grace the night sky this weekend, providing longer-than-usual thrills for stargazers across North and South America.
The celestial action takes place from Sunday evening to early Monday morning, with the moon bathed in the reflected red and orange hues of Earth’s sunsets and sunrises for about 1.5 hours, one of the longest totalities of the decade. It will be the first so-called blood moon in a year.
Observers from the eastern half of North America and all of Central and South America will have prime seating for the entire show, weather permitting. Partial stages of the eclipse will be visible across Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Excluded: Alaska, Asia and Australia.
“It really is an eclipse for the Americas,” said NASA’s Noah Petro, a planetary geologist who specializes in the moon. “It’s going to be a treat.”
All you need, he noted, is “patience and eyeballs.”
A total eclipse occurs when the Earth passes directly between the moon and the sun and casts a shadow over our constant cosmic companion. The moon will be 225,000 miles (362,000 kilometers) away at the height of the eclipse – around midnight on the east coast of the United States.
“It’s this gradual, slow, wondrous event that, as long as it’s clear where you are, you can see it,” Petro said.
Otherwise, NASA will provide a live feed of the eclipse from various locations; the same will be true for the network of Slooh observatories.
There will be another long total lunar eclipse in November, with Africa and Europe lucky again, but the Americas not. Then the next one isn’t until 2025.
Launched last fall, NASA’s asteroid-hunting Lucy spacecraft will photograph this weekend’s event from 64 million miles (103 million kilometers), as ground controllers continue efforts to fix a loose solar panel.
NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, a geologist, plans to set her alarm clock early aboard the International Space Station.
“Hopefully we can be up in time and in the right place at the right time to get a good look,” she told The Associated Press earlier this week.
On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the United States for the last time until 2045.
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