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This Tuesday, November 8, the full moon will turn the sky a copper-red color and kick off Election Day with an early morning event of its own: a total lunar eclipse.
The second of the year, the eclipse will begin at 3:02 a.m., with the moon initially darkening in the first hour, and will end at 8:50 a.m.
During totality, when the entire moon is in the Earth’s shadow, the moon will take on a dark reddish hue, which is why a total eclipse is also called a blood moon. Sky watchers will be able to see the striking effect starting at 5:17 a.m. ET, according to NASA.
“They’re not that common, so it’s always nice to get them when you can,” said Dr. Alphonse Sterling, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “I think they’re great learning devices for people who want to get into astronomy.”
A total lunar eclipse occurs on average once every year and a half, and the next total lunar eclipse won’t occur until March 14, 2025, although partial and penumbral lunar eclipses will continue to occur in the meantime. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon moves through Earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra, so the visual effect is more subtle.
Those watching the total lunar eclipse will be able to see the curvature of the Earth’s shadow as it slowly begins to swallow the moon whole. At least part of the phenomenon will be seen in eastern Asia, Australia, the Pacific, North America and Central America, according to NASA.
Each first full moon in November is called a beaver moon after the semi-aquatic rodent. This is the time of year when beavers begin to take shelter after storing food for the winter, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The moon will be brightest at 6:02 a.m. ET, the almanac says.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth, and moon align so that the moon passes into Earth’s shadow. Because of this arrangement, unlike a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse can be enjoyed from wherever the moon is at night. Nearby stars are often obscured by the moon’s glow, but the moon will be dim enough for the duration of the eclipse, according to Sterling.
“With solar eclipses, you have to be in the right place, but for lunar eclipses, it’s less sensitive to location,” Sterling said.
“At the time when the moon falls into shadow, the whole half of the earth at night can see it. So it’s basically available to half the world.”
The same phenomenon that paints the sky blue and turns the sunset red is what turns the moon rusty red during a lunar eclipse, according to NASA. During a lunar eclipse, the Earth’s atmosphere scatters sunlight, allowing red, orange, and yellow light to pass through, and scatters the blue light normally seen with the moon.
In the eastern United States and Canada, the moon will set before the eclipse ends, so it’s best to look toward the western horizon to see its totality. Viewing a solar eclipse requires eye protection, but you can enjoy a lunar eclipse without any equipment, although your view can be improved with binoculars.
“That’s the cool thing about lunar eclipses, in particular. You really don’t need anything except your eyes. The moon is a bright object, so you don’t need a particularly dark place to see the event,” Sterling said. “And the shadows, the beautiful red color you see in an eclipse, you can see them anywhere, even in the middle of a city.”
After the beaver blood moon, this year has one more full moon event, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The cold moon occurs on December 7th.
As for meteor showers, right now you can see the South Taurides in the night sky. Catch a peak of these upcoming meteor shower events later this year, according to EarthSky’s 2022 meteor shower guide:
• Northern Taurides: November 12
• Leonidas: November 17-18
• Geminids: from December 13 to 14
• Ursidar: December 22 to 23