Don't Miss the Only Total Lunar Eclipse of 2021

Sjo/iStock via Getty Images
Sjo/iStock via Getty Images / Sjo/iStock via Getty Images

A total solar eclipse won't appear over North America until 2024, but there are other eclipses to look forward to between now and then. The soonest one falls on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. On that day, a total lunar eclipse will be easy to spot from the western half of the continent. Here's what you need to know to catch the celestial event.

What Is a Total Lunar Eclipse?

Unlike a solar eclipse, you won't need special glasses to view this spectacle at the end of May. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes perfectly between the moon and the sun and casts a shadow on the satellite. This results in the moon taking on a darker, almost reddish hue. The color is so striking that lunar eclipses are sometimes called "blood moons."

When to See the Lunar Eclipse in 2021

The total lunar eclipse on May 26 will be visible from Southern and Eastern Asia, South America, Australia, and the western half of North America. The eclipse is set to begin at 1:46 a.m. PDT, with the moon entering the darkest part of the Earth's shadow at 2:45 a.m. Part of it will remain in this section of the shadow—called the umbra—until 5:53 a.m. To catch totality—or the period when all of the moon's surface is blanketed by the Earth's umbra—look up between 4:11 a.m. and 4:26 a.m. PDT.

If you miss this event, you'll have another chance to see a lunar eclipse in November. That one will be just a partial eclipse, however, which means the moon's change in color won't be as dramatic. The next total lunar eclipse won't appear over North America until May of 2022.