Later tonight, much of the U.S. will be able to witness the rare convergence of a total lunar eclipse and a so-called “supermoon,” which is when the moon appears a whopping 7 percent larger because it’s at the closest point of its orbit of the Earth. (Tonight is the first time those two events have combined since 1982, and it won’t happen again until 2033.) The eclipse will begin at 8:11 p.m. EST, the total eclipse will start at 10:11 p.m., and the peak of the event will happen at 10:47 p.m. Those in the eastern half of the U.S. should be able to see the full event, while those in the western half will be able to see the eclipse at moonrise. If clouds get in the way, NASA will be livestreaming the event as well, because there’s nothing like looking at live footage of the moon on the internet.
Slate’s resident astronomer, Phil Plait, offers a good primer for prospective moon watchers:
You don’t need any special equipment to see this; just go outside and look at the Moon. (This is different than a solar eclipse, where you need eye protection from the bright Sun.) Having said that, I’ve always found binoculars to be best aid to viewing. The Moon can take on an odd three-dimensional appearance when you use binoculars during an eclipse, and it’s pretty cool to see. A telescope is great, too, if you have access to one. If there’s a local astronomy club or observatory near you, see if they’re running a star party for it.
A lunar eclipse is also referred to as a “blood moon,” due to the reddish-brown color the eclipsed moon gets after the sun’s light is filtered through the particulates in our atmosphere. Put another way, as Plait adds, “If you were standing on the Moon, it’s like you’re seeing every sunrise and sunset on Earth all at once,” or put even another way, its like projecting all the crap in our atmosphere onto the surface of the moon. Bonus: Tonight is a harvest moon as well.
Tonight is thus a harvest-super-blood moon, as well as the possible end of the world if you’re a believer of fringe religious theories suggesting that. But while astrophysicists are certain the world will end some day, NASA insists that won’t be tonight. They also made this snappy video: