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An Epic Lunar Eclipse Is Coming Tomorrow – The Longest of Its Kind in 580 Years

Headlines 12:31 18 Nov, 2021

The Moon doesn't go completely dark in the same way the Sun is blotted out during a total solar eclipse

An Epic Lunar Eclipse Is Coming Tomorrow – The Longest of Its Kind in 580 Years

Space lovers are in for a treat this week. Late Thursday night and into the early hours of Friday morning (in terms of US time zones), you'll have the chance to witness the longest partial lunar eclipse in 580 years. 

And don't let the 'partial' part fool you – this lunar eclipse will be pretty much as close as you can get to a total eclipse, with more than 97 percent of the full moon cast into a red hue by Earth's shadow (NASA says 99.1 percent will be covered, whereas Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles says 97 percent).

At its peak, only a tiny fraction of the Moon on the bottom left corner will remain lit up.

And although it's not the first lunar eclipse this year – we saw a total lunar eclipse back in May – this is going to be a special one. 

The entire event will last for just over six hours, and the Moon will spend a whopping three hours, 28 minutes, and 24 seconds passing through the darkest part of Earth's shadow (its umbra) – making it the longest partial lunar eclipse since 1441, and by far the longest this century.

Lunar eclipses occur when the Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon, casting its shadow over our lunar satellite.

The Moon doesn't go completely dark in the same way the Sun is blotted out during a total solar eclipse. Instead, some sunlight bends through Earth's atmosphere, giving the Moon an eerie red glow.

This red color gives the phenomenon its nickname of a 'blood moon'.

The near-total eclipse will be viewable across the night side of Earth, which includes North America, as well as Hawaii and parts of Russia and South America.

Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, and Southeast Asia will be able to see it on the evening of Friday, 19 November. 

Those on the west coast of the US will have prime viewing conditions, as the Moon will begin to pass through the darker part of Earth's shadow at 11:18 pm on Thursday night PST (07:18 UTC), and leave it at 2:47 am on Friday morning in PST (10:47 UTC). 

During this time, the Moon will be high in the night sky for easy viewing. 

Those closer to the east coast will need to get up early and look low towards the western horizon. In EST, the best viewing will start at 2:18 am and end at 5:47 am on Friday morning.

You can see a full chart showing the best viewing times for your location here.

The November full moon is often referred to as a 'beaver moon', which is a name given by Native Americans based on the fact that traditionally November was the best time to trap beavers as they prepare for winter. According to NASA, it's also sometimes referred to as the frosty or snow moon.