Set an alarm and grab your coat: Friday morning’s lunar eclipse promises quite a show

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ST. LOUIS – Set your alarms. Early Friday morning’s partial lunar eclipse will begin just after midnight as the sun, Earth, and moon come into almost perfect alignment. And it’s a celestial event that’s easy to view.

“It’s not like a solar eclipse where you need glasses or you might need to travel halfway across the world. It’s as easy looking up, seeing the Moon, and it will put on a great show for us tonight,” said Will Snyder, the manager of the Saint Louis Science Center’s James S. McDonnell Planetarium.

For the partial lunar eclipse, we’ll have clear skies to see it if you don’t mind setting an early alarm.

“This eclipse has a lot going for it in regards to its length and its visibility, but it is practically in the middle of the night and we’ll have the greatest eclipse right after 3 a.m.,” Snyder said.  

A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth, and moon align such that the Earth’s shadow blocks the sun’s light from reflecting off the moon.

“So, you can think of it as the Earth blocking out that actually allows us to see the moon in the sky.”

The Earth casts two shadows during a lunar eclipse.

“The outermost edge, there is still some sunlight filtering through. That’s called the penumbra. But the umbra is dead in the center and that’s where the majority of the sun’s light is being blocked.”

How to see the eclipse

The moon will arrive at the umbra at 1:18 a.m. and we’ll have about three and a half hours of the Moon passing through the deep shadow until it exits at 4:47 a.m.

“The great eclipse is around 3 a.m. You go out around then. You’ll have a great show, and you can watch as much of the end of the eclipse as you want to.”

Although technically not a Blood Moon, a name reserved for total lunar eclipses, the moon’s face will be 97% covered at maximum eclipse, meaning it will probably still turn a red color.

“With just a tiny little part outside of the darkest part of the (moon’s) shadow, it is likely we start to see some of those blood-red, maybe muddy-brown hues start to come through,” Snyder said.

So no need to stay up all night, but set that alarm right in the middle.

It will be visible to the naked eye. To enhance your view, you can grab binoculars or a camera with a tripod.

There will be two total lunar eclipses, or “Blood Moons,” in 2022: one May 15 to 16, and one on Nov. 8.

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