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Lunar eclipse coming early Saturday morning

Lunar eclipse: Observers in the western and central North America get a view of a full moon with the earth's shadow passing over it in a partial lunar eclipse.

By Geoff GahertyStarry Night Education / June 25, 2010

Lunar eclipse: Observers in western and central North America will be treated to a full moon undergoing partial lunar eclipse Saturday night. In this image, the moon is appears during a phase in a total lunar eclipse, from Bogota, Columbia, February 20, 2008.

Jose Miguel Gomez/Reuters/File

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The full moon of June will rise over Earth on Saturday, only to fall into a partial lunar eclipse as it passes through part of our planet's shadow.

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Known as the Flower moon in English, the June full moon will occur at 7:30 a.m. EDT (1130 GMT) on Saturday, June 26, nearly two hours after it is partially eclipsed. (This graphic shows where to spot the full moon early Saturday morning.)

Because of the mechanics of the moon, it will set around 5:30 a.m. EDT (0930 GMT), so observers in the western and central parts of North America will have a better view of June's full moon, and the partial lunar eclipse that precedes it.

IN PICTURES: We love the moon

The full moon will be located in the constellation Sagittarius, very close to the southernmost point in its monthly journey around the Earth.

As a result, the moon spends less time than average above the horizon and never gets very far above the horizon, as seen from the Northern Hemisphere.

The partial lunar eclipse will obscure just over half of the full moon. SPACE.com skywatching columnist Joe Rao said in his guide to the June 26 lunar eclipse that the event should last for several hours (2:50 a.m. to 6:25 a.m. Pacific Time).

Moon myths and mysteries

Weather permitting, the moon is visible most nights at some point and is the brightest object in the night sky. It is also visible in daylight much of the month, though most modern humans may be unaware of it.

Here's how it works:

The moon is a sphere, lit from varying angles by the sun. As it moves around the Earth in its orbit, it goes through a series of phases from new moon, when the moon lies on or near a line between Earth and sun; first quarter, when lit from one side; full moon, when lit by the sun directly behind the Earth; and third quarter, lit from the other side. [More: How Moon Phases Work]

A full moon is the most striking of the lunar phases. At this time, a seemingly huge moon rising in the east, fully illuminated, just as the sun is setting in the west.

The large size of the full moon is actually an optical illusion, known as "the moon illusion." It is caused, some scientists think, by our mind's attempt to make sense of the moon in relation to earthly objects on the horizon. In fact, the full moon on the horizon is no larger than the moon at any other time or location.

You can verify the moon illusion yourself by holding a small object, such as a pencil eraser at arm's length and compare its size to that of the rising moon.

Then go back out a couple hours later, when the moon is higher and seems smaller, and make the same comparison to the eraser. Alternately, you can take two pictures of the moon, with your camera at the same settings, then print and compare them.

Guide to June's full moon

The exact time of a full moon is determined strictly by the geometry of the sun, Earth, and moon: all three fall in a straight line with the Earth in the middle. This is an instantaneous event, and happens at the same instant everywhere in the world.

In June's case, the event will occur after the moon has set in eastern North America. These circumstances change as you move across the continent.

In San Francisco, the full moon occurs at 4:30 a.m. with the moon 12 degrees above the horizon. There, the partial lunar eclipse will be a fine sight up and down the west coast of North America.

But in England, June's full moon occurs at 12:30 p.m. British Summer Time, with the moon far below the horizon. The moon itself is quite indifferent to where on Earth people are observing it from.

What's in a moon name?

Like the full moon of every month, June's comes with a host of different names all aimed at chronicling the monthly event. Various peoples around the world gave special names to the full moons throughout the year as a simple way of recognizing the passage of time.

The best known of these names are those used in the English language, but other well known naming systems are used by the Algonquian peoples of northeastern North America, the Hindus of India, and the widespread Buddhist religion.

In addition to its Flower moon moniker, June's full moon also known as the strawberry moon in Algonquian, Wat Poornima in Hindi, and Poson Poya in the Sinhala Buddhist tradition.

It is also known as honey moon, rose moon, hot moon, and planting moon.

IN PICTURES: We love the moon

This article was provided to SPACE.com by Starry Night Education, the leader in space science curriculum solutions