On Saturday morning the first of two lunar eclipses was visible across the U.S.
Skygazers in the western third of the U.S. saw a total eclipse, while folks in the central and eastern U.S. only saw a partial eclipse before the moon set. The third blood moon in a four-part series was the shortest eclipse of the bunch.
According to NASA, the moon slipped fully into Earth’s shadow at 4:58 a.m. Pacific Time (7:58 a.m. ET) Saturday, starting a total lunar eclipse for nearly five minutes. The celestial body took on a burnt-orange tint in the minutes before, during and after the total eclipse, giving the moon the appearance that earns total eclipses the ‘blood moon’ nickname.
Some skygazers complained that clouds prevented them from seeing any of the 3½-hour lunar show.
According to NASA, total eclipse was unusually brief because the moon passed through the upper part of Earth’s shadow. Longer eclipses occur when the moon passes through the middle of the shadow.
Lunar eclipses typically happen at least twice a year, but this eclipse is the third in a series of four in a row, known as a “tetrad.” The first was on April 15, 2014 and the second was on October 23, 2014. The space agency predicts the next one will come September 28.
For a total lunar eclipse to happen, the moon must be full, which means it is directly opposite the sun, with Earth in between, according to NASA. The eclipse happens when the moon moves into the shadow cast by the sun shining on Earth.
Alan MacRobert of Sky and Telescope magazine, said, “That red light shining onto the moon is sunlight that has skimmed and bent through Earth’s atmosphere: that is, from all the sunrises and sunsets that ring the world at any given moment.”
The lunar eclipse wasn’t just visible to the Americans, but also to people in eastern Australia, New Zealand and Japan viewed the eclipse at night.