The sun, moon and Earth will align perfectly early Tuesday morning, creating a rare total lunar eclipse visible across North America — weather permitting.
It’s expected to be especially visible in the West Coast because the moon will be high in the sky throughout the duration of the eclipse, said UC Berkeley Astronomy Professor Alex Filippenko.
At around 1 a.m., Oakland and Berkeley residents may notice a “small bite” taken out of the moon, a signal that the eclipse has begun. The fact that the bite (Earth’s shadow) is curved during the partial phases of a lunar eclipse was once used as evidence by Ancient Greek astronomers to conclude the Earth is round, not flat.
Over the course of the next hour, the bite will become bigger and bigger as the moon moves directly into Earth’s shadow, until it becomes fully submerged in a red-orange hue for about an hour and a half in a phase known as totality.
Totality, or the time in which the moon is deep in Earth’s shadow and appears its darkest, will be between 2:16 a.m. and 3:42 a.m. While the moon will be fully covered by Earth’s shadow during totality, it won’t completely disappear, thanks to dust, ash and pollution in Earth’s atmosphere reflecting sunlight back onto the moon. After totality ends, the moon will gradually brighten, returning to its normal state.
Unfortunately, forecasts are showing a high likelihood of rain in Berkeley, but you might want to pour yourself a big mug of coffee anyway. It’ll be the last total lunar eclipse in three years, and given that this eclipse is expected to last longer than normal, there’s a possibility you could get a view of the moon through a break in the clouds.
If storm clouds aren’t blocking the view at 2 a.m., Fillipenko recommends heading to an open field away from bright lights, like UC Berkeley’s Memorial Glade, for optimal viewing. You won’t need binoculars or a telescope.
You could also travel to Los Angeles, where it’s less likely to rain today, to view the eclipse, Filippenko said. Or, if a last-minute trip to see the moon isn’t quite feasible, you can tune into the Griffith Observatory’s livestream.
The next total lunar eclipse won’t happen until March 14, 2025, though there will be several partial eclipses in the meantime. (As the name suggests, partial eclipses occur when the moon goes partly into Earth’s shadow.) Partial eclipses will occur on Oct. 28, 2023, and Sept. 18, 2024.