One of nature’s great spectacles will play out tonight: a total lunar eclipse. The Moon will pass through Earth’s dark inner shadow, turning the Moon orange or red. All or most of the eclipse will be visible from all of the U.S. except Alaska.
Lunar eclipses occur at full Moon, when the Moon aligns opposite the Sun in our sky. But the Moon’s orbit around Earth is tilted a bit, so we don’t see an eclipse every month. The full Moon has to be crossing the plane of the Sun’s path across the sky to create an eclipse.
And even then, it’s not always a total eclipse. Sometimes, the Moon only dips part of the way into the shadow, creating a partial eclipse. There are at least two lunar eclipses every year, though, and sometimes more. This year we have two total eclipses.
Tonight’s gets under way when the Moon first touches the inner shadow, beginning the partial eclipse, at 9:28 p.m. Central Daylight Time. The Moon will be fully eclipsed an hour later. Totality will last an hour and 25 minutes. And the partial phase will end at 12:55 a.m., when the Moon leaves the shadow behind.
All of that action will be visible from most of the U.S. — from Arizona to Montana and points east. Skywatchers to the west of that line — including Hawaii — will see all of the total eclipse but will miss out on the end of the partial eclipse. Alaska will miss out on the whole thing. But it’s in prime position for the next eclipse, in November.
Script by Damond Benningfield