- An almost total lunar eclipse will occur early Friday morning, with first-class visibility in North America.
- It will last 3 hours and 28 minutes – the longest partial lunar eclipse of this century, NASA predicts.
- This is how you see the rare event where up to 97% of the moon will look red.
The longest lunar eclipse of this century is coming this week.
During the early hours of Friday morning, the Earth will pass between the sun and the moon and cast a shadow over the latter. The eclipse will peak just after 04.00 Eastern Time, where our planet will hide 97% of the full moon from the sun’s light, giving the moon a reddish hue.
According to NASA, the partial lunar eclipse will last 3 hours, 28 minutes and 23 seconds – longer than any other eclipse between 2001 and 2100.
Here’s how and when you can capture the rare heavenly event.
People in North America can see the whole show
Lunar eclipses are not visible all over the world – only in places where the moon is above the horizon.
For the coming eclipse, cloud observers in North America have the best seats in the house. People in all 50 US states, Canada and Mexico can see the entire event.
You do not need a telescope or binoculars – just go outside and look up at the sky anytime between 02:19 and 5:47 Eastern Time on Friday.
Or if you do not want to go out in the cool morning air, you can watch a livestream of the event here.
People in South America and Western Europe will see most of the eclipse, though the moon will set before it ends. People in western Asia and Oceania will miss the earlier part of the event as the moon has not risen yet. Those living in Africa and the Middle East will not see any of the spectacle.
If you miss the eclipse, do not be annoyed. Thereafter, NASA predicts a further 179 eclipses over the next eight decades, with an average of two per year. The next eclipse will occur on May 16, 2022.
How a lunar eclipse works – and why it makes the moon red
Typically, the moon’s white-gray face is illuminated by sunlight reflected from its surface. But during a lunar eclipse, the moon, sun, and Earth adjust briefly so that our planet blocks sunlight from reaching the moon.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when 100% of the moon is obscured by the Earth’s cone-shaped shadow, known as the umbra. During a total eclipse, or almost total eclipse like this month’s event, the moon’s surface gets a bloody face.
We have oxygen and nitrogen particles in the Earth’s atmosphere to thank for that light show. They are better at scattering certain shorter wavelengths of light, such as blue or violet, so that colors with longer wavelengths – such as red, orange or yellow – still linger. When the moon sits in the shadow of the earth, the reddish colors dominate what you see.