Friday morning sky watchers all across North America will get the chance to watch an almost total lunar eclipse. By an almost total lunar eclipse I mean that at mid-eclipse the Moon will be 97.4 % covered by the Earth’s shadow. There will be just a small sliver of the Moon that will remain exposed to the Sun’s light and because of this, the eclipse will be considered a partial eclipse. Partial lunar eclipses like this don’t happen very often so this will also be the longest partial lunar eclipse since the year 1441.
If you are planning on watching the eclipse you may have to sacrifice some sleep. The eclipse will begin at 1:18 a.m. That is when the Moon begins to enter into the dark umbra shadow of the Earth. While the Moon slips into the Earth’s shadow the night sky will become darker, and the color of the eclipsed Moon will begin to show. Mid-eclipse will be at 3:04 a.m. Friday morning. At this time the Moon will be 97.4% eclipsed. The Moon will appear a dull red or rust color. People often refer to an eclipsed Moon as a blood Moon because of the color. Then from 3:04 a.m. to 4:47 a.m. the Moon will slowly regain its place as the brightest object in the night sky. By 4:47 a.m. the eclipse will be over.
At no time will it be unsafe to look at the partial lunar eclipse. Nothing is needed to observe the lunar eclipse other than your own eyes but if you have a pair of binoculars they will really improve the view. Small telescopes will also reveal the colors of the eclipsed Moon. As an added bonus the eclipsed Moon will be near the Pleiades Star Cluster. Look for a small but bright star cluster above the Moon.