Just after midnight Tuesday, a total lunar eclipse will turn the full moon into a “blood moon,” which sounds more sinister than its actual shade of a coppery red.
The phenomenon, in which the moon will be eclipsed by Earth’s shadow, is expected to emerge at 12:07 a.m. Pacific time Tuesday and last for about 78 minutes, according to NASA. The moon will start slipping into the shadows at 10:58 p.m. Monday.
The National Weather Service is forecasting clear skies in Santa Barbara County so local stargazers and photographers should have no trouble seeing it for themselves.
The Westmont College Observatory is hosting a free, public viewing from 10:30 p.m. Monday until 2 a.m. Tuesday, and members of the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit will be on hand with their own telescopes to provide additional views. The Westmont campus is at 955 La Paz Road in Montecito.
A total lunar eclipse can only occur the night of a full moon when Earth is aligned almost exactly in the middle of the sun and moon. The reddish appearance is the result of clouds and dust being filtered through Earth’s atmosphere.
Tuesday’s blood moon is the first of four total eclipses that will occur at roughly six-month intervals over the next year and a half. The next blood moon will appear Oct. 8, followed by April 4, 2015, and Sept. 28, 2015.