A Friendly Total Lunar Eclipse FAQ

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Early tomorrow morning (Wednesday, October 8th), about half of the earth's surface will be treated to a heck of a show courtesy of our moon and sun: a total lunar eclipse. To find out more about what this will entail and how you can watch it, we've listed some frequently asked lunar eclipse questions below.

What is a total lunar eclipse?
It's when a full moon is completely in the shadow of earth, meaning the sun, the earth, and the moon are in line, in that order.

'In that order'? How does that make sense in space, where there is no true frame of reference?
You know what I mean. What if I showed you a (fair use) diagram of what this looks like, would that help?


Wikimedia Commons

So there's going to be one tonight?
Well, technically early tomorrow morning, if you are in North America.

Will I be able to see it?
Depends. Are you in North America, Australia, or Western Asia? If so, then yes.

What's so special about this lunar eclipse?
It's the second of four straight total lunar eclipses (called a "lunar eclipse tetrad")—the last one happened in April. If you live in the eastern portion of the United States, the sun will be rising as the moon is setting, which will create what's known as a "selenelion" event. Because the sun and the moon are on exact opposite sides of the Earth during a total eclipse, you shouldn't be able to see the moon at the same time as the sun. But, due to our atmosphere, the light will refract and an image of the moon will briefly appear on the other side of the sky from the rising sun.


What time can I see the eclipse?
Depends. American skywatchers should consult this table, via Space.com. For people on Eastern Standard Time, the moon enters penumbra (starts being eclipsed) at 4:15 a.m. (1:15am PST). The process continues from there, and it will climax for east coasters between 6:25 a.m. and 7:25 a.m.

What's it going to look like?
Something like this, although you should watch it for yourself in person:

What if I don't feel like craning my head up and would rather keep staring at my computer?
NASA will be live-streaming it here. They also have a good page with more general info on the eclipse.

Can I Instagram it?
Yes, you are allowed to Instagram it. Don't use a filter.

Will you like it?