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Science

Earth’s Shadow Creeps Across Moon Ahead of Super Blood Moon

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Earth's shadow crept across the moon on Wednesday night as people in New Zealand and around the world waited for a cosmic event known as a super blood moon.

As the eclipse deepened, it appeared as though half the moon had vanished. The other half looked fuzzy in the center with a bright outer edge, the last remnants of the glittering orb that had earlier risen above the horizon. 

A super blood moon is when a full lunar eclipse coincides with a supermoon, which is when the moon is particularly close to Earth and appears brighter than normal.

For about 15 minutes, as the moon moves fully into Earth's shadow, the moon will appear to turn red. 

The eclipse began as the moon edged into the Earth's outer shadow, called the penumbra. The full eclipse was due to take place between 11:11 p.m. and 11:25 p.m. 

"It's our turn," said John Rowe, an educator at the Stardome Observatory & Planetarium in Auckland, New Zealand. "We are in a prime position for it. The moon is really high in the sky for us, and everyone should be able to see it."

Rowe likes to imagine it as if he's standing on the moon. The Earth would come across and block out the sun. The reddish light around the edges would be the sunsets and sunrises happening at that time on Earth, projected onto the moon's surface. Pretty cool, he reckons.

He said it's hard to know ahead of time the exact color the moon will appear because it depends on the amount of dust in the atmosphere, global weather and other factors. 

New Zealand, Australia and some other places in the Pacific and East Asia will see the show before midnight, while night owls in Hawaii and the western part of North America will be able to see it in the early morning hours. 

Sky gazers along the U.S. East Coast will be out of luck because the moon will be setting and the sun rising. Europe, Africa and western Asia will miss everything. 

In Hong Kong, Dickson Fu left work early to watch the eclipse from a seaside promenade in the Sai Kung neighborhood. 

Fu, who is president of Hong Kong's Sky Observers' Association, picked that particular spot because it would give him an unobstructed view of the eclipse.

"In recent years I'm more interested in taking photos, and in the past few days I have already done rehearsals, testing out equipment such as the camera and lenses for the eclipse tonight," said Fu, who has been observing eclipses since his high school years in the 1990s.

For those living in places where the eclipse isn't visible, there will be livestreams available. And everyone around the world will be able to soak in the brighter-than-usual moon, weather permitting.

It's the first total lunar eclipse in more than two years. While the total eclipse will be just 15 minutes, the entire show will last five hours, as Earth's shadow gradually covers the moon, then starts to ebb. 

The color is the result of the sunrises and sunsets in Earth's atmosphere projected onto the surface of the eclipsed moon.

The moon will be more than 220,000 miles (357,460 kilometers) away at its fullest. It's this proximity, combined with a full moon, that qualifies it as a supermoon, making it appear slightly bigger and more brilliant in the sky. 

Unlike a solar eclipse, there's no harm in looking at an eclipsed moon.

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