A total lunar eclipse, also known as a 'blood moon,' captured on April 15, 2014. Image Credit: Tom Ruen

Blood Moon Set To Haunt The October Sky Tonight

It may not be Halloween just yet, but when skywatchers look upon the sky tonight they’ll be haunted by a blood moon, as a total lunar eclipse that will be visible throughout much of North America is set to occur in the early morning hours on Wednesday turning the moon blood red.

The total lunar eclipse will occur when the Earth is aligned in between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow on our celestial neighbor. However, the moon won’t completely disappear from the night sky. Instead of a bright white light in the sky the moon will have a rusty red glow, the result of sunlight scattering off of Earth’s atmosphere.

A simulation of the moon before, during and after the lunar eclipse on October 8, 2014. Image Credit: Tom Ruen.

A simulation of the moon before, during and after the lunar eclipse on October 8, 2014. Image Credit: Tom Ruen.

Lunar eclipses can only occur during a full moon, when the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. However, unlike full moons, lunar eclipses do not happen every month because of the moon’s orbit, which only passes into Earth’s shadow about twice a year.

Tonight’s total lunar eclipse will also present a rare opportunity to view a total lunar eclipse while watching the sunrise, in what is known as a Selenelion.

This lunar eclipse will be the second in a tetrad of eclipses, starting with the total lunar eclipse occurring on April 15 of this year. A lunar tetrad is a consecutive series of four total lunar eclipses that each occur with 6 lunar months of separation between them. The next total lunar eclipses are set for April 04 and September 28, 2015.

Where and when can you view it? The moon will come into partial eclipse starting at 5:15 am EDT. The moon will go into total lunar eclipse beginning at 6:24 am EDT and will last for approximately an hour. The total lunar eclipse will be viewable throughout much of North America.

Worldwide map showing where the October 8, 2014 lunar eclipse will be viewable. Image Credit: NASA / GSFC / Espenak

Worldwide map showing where the October 8, 2014 lunar eclipse will be viewable. Image Credit: NASA / GSFC / Espenak

For those unable to view the lunar eclipse, NASA and the Slooh Community observatory will be providing live streams of the total lunar eclipse. NASA’s webcast will begin at 3 am EDT. The Slooh webcast will webcast will start at 5 am EDT. You can watch the webcasts here.

Learn more about lunar eclipses in this video from NASA:

If you are interested in learning how to photograph tonight’s blood moon check out Universe Today’s guide for taking great photos of the lunar eclipse. Also see Space.com’s tips for capturing photos of the lunar eclipse.