LOS ANGELES — Weather permitting, sky gazers in North and Central America and a sliver of South America will boast the best seats to this year’s only total eclipse of the moon.
The eclipse will happen tonight on the West Coast and during the wee hours tomorrow on the East Coast. Western Europe will only see the start of the spectacle while western Asia will catch the tail end.
The moon is normally illuminated by the sun. During a total lunar eclipse, the full moon passes through the shadow created by the Earth blocking the sun’s light. Some indirect sunlight will manage to pierce through and give the moon a ghostly color.
Since the eclipse coincides with winter solstice, the moon will appear high in the sky — a boon for skywatchers. With recent volcanic eruptions around the globe dumping tons of dust into the atmosphere, scientists predict that the moon may appear darker than usual during the eclipse, glowing an eerie red or brown instead of the usual orange-yellow tinge.
North and Central America should be able to view the entire show, which is expected to last 3 1/2 hours if skies are clear. Total eclipse begins at 2:41 a.m. EST tomorrow. The totality phase — when the moon is entirely inside Earth’s shadow — will last a little over an hour.
Unlike solar eclipses which require protective glasses, lunar eclipses are safe to watch with the naked eye.
Griffith Observatory, perched on the south slope of Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles, will host an eclipse party this evening although rain is forecast.
Telescopes will be set out on the lawn for the public and astronomers will give free lectures on the eclipse’s various stages.