Total lunar eclipse will arrive in wee hours Tuesday

The moon will go through a number of phases during Tuesday's lunar eclipse. The total phase will last 78 minutes.

 

Augusta sky-watchers, prepare for a rare event.

For the first time since 2011, a total lunar eclipse will arrive Tuesday morning, turning the moon red.

“The event doesn’t begin till pretty late, but I definitely encourage people to stay up and witness everything,” said Dr. Gary Senn, the director of the Ruth Patrick Science Center in Aiken. “It’ll be an amazing sight.”

At 1:58 a.m., the moon will move into Earth’s shadow, beginning the lunar eclipse.

“Just before 2 a.m., people should start looking for the curvature of Earth’s shadow crossing over the moon’s surface,” Senn said. “About an hour later, the reddish color will appear.”

The moon will be fully eclipsed between 3 and 4 a.m., with the most intense redness about 3:30.

“It really is a spectacular sight,” said Tedda Howard, the president of the Astronomy Club of Augusta. “To see the moon turn dark red is very different – especially with all the stars around it. I know it’s late, but people won’t regret staying up for the show.”

Because of the late hour, Ruth Patrick Science Center won’t hold a viewing party.

“We’ve tried having viewing parties in the past, but it’s tough getting a large group together when it starts this late,” Senn said. “Especially since it also falls on a weeknight.”

Special technology isn’t required.

“A lunar eclipse can easily be seen by the naked eye,” he said. “I mean, it doesn’t hurt to use a telescope or binoculars, but it isn’t necessary. Sometimes, I actually think it looks better when you don’t use anything.”

Tuesday’s eclipse marks the start of a lunar tetrad – an event that occurs when there are four consecutive total lunar eclipses, with no partial lunar eclipse in between.

The next total eclipse will occur Oct. 8.

“My husband and I watched the last total eclipse (in 2011), and it’s just fascinating,” Howard said.

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