Only the speediest of skywatchers will have a chance to see the total lunar eclipse rising Saturday: NASA predicts that the total phase of the lunar eclipse will only last about 5 minutes, making it the shortest lunar eclipse of the century.
Early-rising observers all over the United States should be able to see at least the partial phases of the April 4 lunar eclipse just before the sun rises, if weather permits. People on the West Coast will have the chance to see the moon turn an eerie shade of red during totality, which should begin at about 7:58 a.m. EDT (1158 GMT, 4:58 a.m. PDT). NASA this week unveiled a video detailing the total lunar eclipse, and dubbed the event the shortest lunar eclipse of the century in an announcement on Monday (March 30) in detail.
Observers in other parts of the world will have an even better chance to see the lunar eclipse. Stargazers in Australia, Japan, China, and Southeast Asia will get the chance to see the eclipse on the night of April 4, according to Sky & Telescope. (Sky & Telescope predicts that the total phase of the eclipse will actually last about 9 to 12 minutes starting at 7:54 a.m. EDT.)
Lunar eclipses occur when the moon dips into Earth's shadow, casting an occasionally spooky glow on the natural satellite. A partial phase of an eclipse happens when the moon passes through the outer part of Earth's shadow, but total lunar eclipses happen only when the darkest part of the planet's shadow falls across the lunar surface.
"During the eclipse, the moon often looks reddish because sunlight has passed through Earth's atmosphere, which filters out most of its blue light," NASA officials said in a statement. "This eerie, harmless effect has earned the tongue-in-cheek nickname 'blood moon.'"
Unlike total solar eclipses, lunar eclipses can be seen by anyone on Earth that can see the moon at the time of the eclipse, Sky & Telescope added. Total Solar eclipses — like the one that happened only a couple weeks ago, on March 20 — can usually only be seen by a small swath of the planet because of the way the moon, sun and Earth align.…