Early risers in the United States may catch a glimpse of a “super flower blood moon” and a brief lunar eclipse Wednesday morning.
The total lunar eclipse is the first of four eclipses that will occur in 2021, and it’s the first total lunar eclipse since January 2019, according to Space.com.
During a lunar eclipse, the moon passes through Earth’s shadow, which casts a reddish-hue on the moon, hence the name “blood moon.” The red color is actually caused by “a ring of light created by all the sunrises and sunsets happening around our planet” as sunlight filters through Earth’s atmosphere, according to NASA. How red the moon will appear can vary, depending partially on how much dust is in the atmosphere at the time.
Lunar eclipses are safe to view with your eyes, unlike solar eclipses.
This eclipse will be most visible in the Pacific Rim, so within the United States, people living in the western states, Alaska and Hawaii will have the best chances of seeing the entire eclipse. For those living in the eastern third of the country — including residents in Tennessee — only the very beginning of the eclipse might be visible as the moon starts to set over the horizon during dawn twilight.
The complete eclipse will last only around 14 minutes and 30 seconds before the moon sets. Eclipses happen at the same moment for everyone on Earth, but each person’s location and time zone determines how much of the eclipse will be visible.
Unfortunately for those living in the eastern United States, this means the most viewers may be able to see if they have clear skies is a faint shadow on the moon’s left side as it the moon fades from view below the horizon.
Those on eastern time have their best chance of catching a glimpse around 5:44 a.m., just as the moon starts to enter the Earth’s shadow. By the time the full eclipse begins, around 7:11 a.m. eastern time, it’s likely the moon will no longer be visible for eastern residents.
Those in the central time zone may see a bit more: the eclipse will begin around 6:11 a.m. central time and end at around 6:25 a.m. Pacific time zone residents are most in luck — they could see the majority of the eclipse’s duration, starting at 4:11 a.m. and ending at 4:25 a.m. (though the moon will remain in partial shadow until 5:52 a.m. Pacific time).
The full moon will be near the closest point in its orbit to Earth, typically called a “supermoon” because of its larger and brighter appearance, according to NASA. Full moons in May are called “flower” moons because the month is usually marked by an abundance of blooming flowers in North America, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
After Wednesday, the next lunar eclipse will occur on Nov. 19. This near-total eclipse will also occur in the early morning, but will favor all of North America, according to Space.com.