Get out your binoculars—tonight in North America, we’ve got front row seats to one of the natural world’s most spectacular displays: a total lunar eclipse.
For the first time since 2010, most of the United States will be prime viewing ground for this celestial show in which a full moon, the Earth, and the sun align perfectly and the moon will gradually darken and become illuminated with a “deep orange or red glow.” (The nickname for an eclipse like this, a “blood moon,” has unknown, and possibly religious, origins.) The map below indicates where in the world the eclipse will be most visible:
You’ll have to stay up late tonight to catch the action, though. The moon will pass through the shadow of the Earth starting at 12:54 a.m. until 6:38 a.m., with the best views occurring between 3:07 and 4:25 a.m. You can also check out the U.S. Naval Observatory’s website, where you can enter your city and get data on exactly when you can expect to see the best eclipse views in your area.
So, what’s the best way to watch tonight? Unlike a solar eclipse, during which the moon passes between the Earth and sun and blocks sunlight, lunar eclipses can be seen with the naked eye (as long as skies are clear) and you don’t need visual protection. If you have binoculars or a telescope—and a blanket or lawn chair to make your seat more comfortable—even better. And if you can’t get outside to watch the eclipse, you can see it online on NASA TV.
Tonight’s showstopping display is just the first of a rare “tetrad” of four total lunar eclipses happening over the next year and a half. Mark your calendars for next three eclipses, which will occur on October 8 this year and April 4 and September 28 of 2015.
Watch a time lapse video of a stunning total lunar eclipse from 2010: