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Blood Moon & Lunar Eclipse: What to Know

April 3, 2015

Make yourself some hot chai or coffee, and bring a blanket and friends to view an amazing lunar event super early Saturday morning. It’s an epic way to start off your weekend outside and a perfect place to throw down some moon salutations! This post from Joseph on Vox explains all you need to know to be ready for the big moment. For us yogis on the West Coast, we’ll see total eclipse just before 5 am. Happy moon gazing!

A total lunar eclipse — sometimes called a “blood moon” — is coming to the West Coast early Saturday morning.That day, the moon will slowly wander into the Earth’s shadow. Eventually, the shadow will completely envelop the moon and block nearly all sunlight, creating a total eclipse and causing the moon to glow red from small amounts of light passing through our atmosphere.A 2014 lunar eclipse, as seen from Southern California. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

lunar eclipse
The total eclipse will only be visible to residents in the western half of the United States (as well as people throughout the Pacific, East Asia, and Oceania). It starts right at 4:58 amPacific and will last just five minutes.On the East Coast, the sun will have already risen by that time, making the blood moon invisible. However, Easterners can wake up before sunrise and get a glimpse of the partial eclipse, starting around 6:16 am Eastern.Unlike a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse is totally safe to watch without eye protection, and lasts for a few hours.

1) What is a lunar eclipse?

Normally, light from the sun directly hits the moon, which is why the moon is illuminated at night. Every so often, though, the sun, Earth, and moon align. When this happens, our planet blocks the sun’s light, causing an eclipse.lunar eclipse

(Sagredo/Wikimedia Commons)

When only part of the moon enters the core part of the Earth’s shadow (the umbra), just part of it darkens. This is a partial eclipse, and it’s what US residents on the East Coast will be able to see if they wake up early.When the entire moon enters the umbra, nearly all the sunlight is blocked from hitting it. This is called totality, and it’s during this stage that the darkened moon will glow red — which is why lunar eclipses are sometimes called blood moons.

2) How can I watch the lunar eclipse?

The great thing about lunar eclipses is that unlike solar eclipses, they don’t require any sort of eye protection to watch — all you have to do is look to the sky to see an astronomical wonder. If you want a really good view of it, you can use binoculars or a telescope.People across most of the US will be able to see the early partial stages of the eclipse, which will begin at 6:16 am ET. However, sunrise will interrupt it for people east of the Mississippi.

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Joseph Stromberg writes about science on and sometimes other things. Previously of Smithsonian magazine and Buffalo, New York.

Header image: A composite photo shows each of the stages of a total lunar eclipse. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)