By Lynn R. Mitchell
A bright October full moon woke me at 3:30 this morning as its spotlight beams shone through the window so I’m up early and hoping to catch the lunar eclipse that should occur around 6:30 — about an hour-and-a-half from now — when the moon will turn red.
According to the experts, Earth will pass between the moon and sun, blocking the sun’s rays from reaching the moon. However, a “blood moon” will occur when the moon turns red as some of the sun’s light passes through the dust-filled atmosphere, causing the moon to appear red (see Wake up early Wednesday morning to see a total eclipse of the moon):
At 6:25 am, things will get really cool, as the entire moon will begin glowing an eerie red color instead of its usual white. This is because the sun, earth, and moon will be aligned perfectly, with the entire moon in the earth’s umbra. This is the total eclipse.
For most people in the Eastern time zone, the sun will rise and the moon will set just a few minutes after entering this phase, ending the visible eclipse (look up your local sunrise and moonset time here). In fact, the close timing of these events might end up masking the total eclipse entirely, especially for people living right on the East coast. But most people in Central, Mountain, and Pacific will be able to see the total eclipse for longer, and some will see the process play out in reverse as well.
The moon will stay totally eclipsed until 7:24 am Eastern time, then will return to being a white sliver, with the dark portion gradually shrinking as it moves through the penumbra. The fully darkened portion will disappear entirely at 8:34 am Eastern time, as parts of the moon escape the penumbra and it once again becomes just a slightly dimmed version of its normal self.
Thunderstorms that moved through the Shenandoah Valley Tuesday night had moved out by the wee hours of Wednesday, leaving behind clear skies and the bright moon. Coffee, binoculars, camera … we’re ready for the morning show.