On Sunday night, a total lunar eclipse will summon a "blood moon."
As the moon moves into the earth’s shadow, it will appear red-orange because of light filtering through Earth's atmosphere. People across the continental United States will be able to see the moon transition from full to blood over the course of an hour and a half, says Sky & Telescope senior editor Kelly Beatty.
The East Coast will get a better view than the West Coast. The total lunar eclipse starts at 11:29 p.m. Eastern Time and 8:29 Pacific Time when the bright full moon moves into the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, called the umbra. But instead of turning to black, the Earth’s atmosphere turns the moon’s surface a rusty, dark orange color.
On the East coast, the sky will get dark a little after midnight and gazers can see stars that aren’t normally visible. Out West, the eclipse will be underway when the sun sets.
“No two eclipses are the same,” Beatty says. “Keep an eye out for changes in color as the moon passes through that shadow.”
Prior to understanding how eclipses work, ancient people worried the moon wouldn’t come back, Beatty says. And on his third voyage, Christopher Colombus intimidated Indigenous people by correctly predicting a total lunar eclipse.
“I like [the eclipse] because it literally is showing the moon moving along in its orbit,” Beatty says. “We get to watch the clockwork of the solar system in action.”
This segment aired on May 13, 2022.