This year’s lunar eclipse will be even longer than you think



Update at 4:30 p.m. EDT, March 24: Tuesday’s total lunar eclipse will be the longest in more than 600 years, according to the official data. The next total lunar eclipse won’t be until April 15, 2108, to April 15, 2158. The next solar eclipse will be Oct. 29, 2016.

The world is set to celebrate a historic lunar eclipse Tuesday night, and if you’re in a dark, populated area, you could see the entirety of the event, or at least much of it. But you don’t have to be in Washington to see it. It’s going to be pretty easy.

In addition to being Tuesday night, the total lunar eclipse is the longest of the 21st century. As NASA explains:

During a lunar eclipse, the Earth’s shadow falls directly over the surface of the moon, shining a light that can only be perceived through telescopes and cameras attached to special eyeglasses. This periodic event happens on the moon’s surface every six months during its orbit around the Earth. The next full lunar eclipse will occur July 27, 2016. But Tuesday’s total lunar eclipse will be a much longer one — more than 12 hours.

That means if you are anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, the moon will rise after 11 p.m. Eastern time and be at its high point in Earth’s shadow around 2 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday.

Viewers in Asia will have a longer amount of time to watch the event — 1:30 a.m. Wednesday is when the moon will have risen. If you are in India or western Africa, you’ll see the moon set before the eclipse gets going — it’s at 1:30 a.m. there.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada says the eclipse, which begins at 7:08 p.m. EDT (23:08 GMT), will be a “liquid grey sky” and you could be at a partially obscuring moon. The reddish-orange tint that the moon will take from blood moon to blood orange appears when Earth’s shadow crushes onto the moon.

Astronomers will be monitoring the Earth’s position during the eclipse on Tuesday night. If you’re watching the eclipse from the moon’s horizon, it will be completely obscured by Earth’s shadow. In the United States, the only place the Earth’s shadow will be completely invisible is the town of Pahrump, Nevada.

The show gets started with a half-hour of the moon below the left edge of the Earth’s shadow. From there, the moon will move into the Earth’s shadow as it moves away from the Earth, slightly dragging the Earth’s shadow closer to the moon. With the moon standing seven degrees above the Earth, the Earth’s shadow will be about 0.3 degrees thick. NASA explains:

Though the light from the sun normally travels through the night sky, it travels faster in the night sky to the right side of the Earth. During the second half of the eclipse, the Earth’s outer atmosphere, called the troposphere, will be much closer to the moon than on the left side. This means the resulting light from the sun will travel slower than it would normally.

That’s why the lunar eclipse — officially classified as a “blood moon” and nearly 5,000 years old — is a spectacular treat for sky-watchers. It’s also how to catch an obscure phenomenon in a cosmic spotlight. You’re really not going to see any other blood moon without a telescope or binoculars.

Those of you standing on the moon’s horizon will be able to see about an 80 percent viewing window, the Guardian reports. According to NASA, the next blood moon comes at 2:30 a.m. Eastern time on April 15, 2108.

I have a better idea for you, but you’ll have to head to Wikipedia.

There are three real-time feeds of the eclipse through the The Virtual Telescope Project in Italy. The Virtual Telescope Project will be streaming a virtual telescope directly over the moon’s surface, and also the parts of the Earth’s shadow visible to satellite.

YouTube user nickjamescam produced an annotated video for further visual enjoyment.

For a more interactive and graphic version of the eclipse, the Washington Post created a virtual recreation of its eclipse, as seen from Earth.

While the eclipse will be visible from Washington and New York, it will not be visible from Europe or Africa.

For more information about the full eclipse and the locations where it will be visible, head to NASA.

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