Lunar eclipse will turn moon a fire red
Saturday's lunar eclipse promises to make the moon appear supersized and bright red for skywatchers in the Western United States and Canada.
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"[T]he delicate layer of dusty air surrounding our planet reddens and redirects the light of the sun, filling the dark behind Earth with a sunset-red glow," NASA officials said.Skip to next paragraph
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Depending on the state of the atmosphere at the time of the eclipse, observers can expect shades from bright orange to deep red. This should create a dramatic scene for interested photographers, and Sky & Telescope suggests using a long telephoto lens or even a small telescope to immortalize the special moment.
The upcoming eclipse also offers a special chance for some observers to catch a rare "senelion," the sight of the moon and the sun at the same time during an eclipse, due to an optical illusion.
A colorful eclipse
In a video made by NASA, atmospheric scientist and eclipse expert Richard Keen of the University of Colorado offered advice for those hoping to view Saturday's show.
"During the lunar eclipse, most of the light illuminating the moon passes through the stratosphere, where it is reddened by scattering," Keen said. "If the stratosphere is loaded with dust from volcanic eruptions, the eclipse will be dark. A clear stratosphere, on the other hand, produces a brighter eclipse. At the moment, the stratosphere is mostly clear, with little input from recent volcanoes. That explains the brightness of the eclipse."
It might also be possible to see a hint of turquoise as the bodies become aligned, he added.
"Light passing through the upper atmosphere penetrates the ozone layer, which absorbs red light and actually makes the passing light-ray bluer," Keen said. "This can be seen as a soft blue fringe around the red core of Earth's shadow. Look for the turquoise near the beginning of the eclipse, when the edge of Earth's shadow is sweeping across the lunar terrain."
According to Sky & Telescope, the next partial lunar eclipse will happen June 4, 2012, and should be visible across most of North America. The next total lunar eclipse will occur in April 2014.
Editor's Note: If you take a photo or video of the eclipse that you'd like to share with SPACE.com for a possible story or gallery, please email Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org or Clara Moskowitz at email@example.com.
- Photos: Long Total Lunar Eclipse of June 15, 2011
- Total Eclipse of the Moon (Infographic)
- December 2011 Skywatching Events