CABO CANAVERAL, Florida – Here comes a total lunar eclipse and super moon, all wrapped in one.
The moon, Earth and sun will line up this weekend for the only total lunar eclipse this year and next. At the same time, the moon will always be closer to Earth and will appear a little bigger and brighter than normal – a super moon.
"This is particularly good," said astrophysicist Patrick Hartigan of Rice University. "It's not just a super moon and it's a total eclipse, but the total eclipse also lasts a long time. It's about an hour.
The entire eclipse starts on Sunday night or Monday depending on the location, and will take about three hours.
It starts with the partial phase around 10:34 p.m. EST Sunday. That's when the earth's shadow begins to pinch the moon. The totality – when the earth's shadow completely covers the moon – lasts 62 minutes, from 11:41 p.m. EST Sunday.
If the skies are clear, the whole eclipse will be visible in North and South America, as well as in Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and the French and Spanish coasts. The rest of Europe, as well as Africa, will have a partial view before the moon begins.
During the whole, the moon will turn red because of the sunlight scattered throughout the Earth's atmosphere. That is why an eclipsed moon is sometimes known as the moon of blood. In January, the full moon is also sometimes known as the wolf moon or the great spiritual moon.
So, informally speaking, the next lunar eclipse will be a super wolf of the blood – or great spirit – moon.
In the US, the eclipse will begin relatively early on Sunday night, making it easier for children to stay awake and enjoy the show. In addition, the following day is a federal holiday, with most schools closed. But the weather forecast for much of the US does not look good.
Parents "can keep their kids awake a little later," said Hartigan, who will catch Houston lunar extravaganza. "It's a wonderful thing for the whole family to see, because it's rather rare to have all of these things together at one and the same time."
"The good thing about it is that you do not need any special equipment," he added.
Asia, Australia and New Zealand are out of luck. But they had a prime view last year when two lunar eclipses occurred.
The next total lunar eclipse will not be until May 2021.
As for the supermoons of the full moon, this will be the first of three this year. The next full moon will be about 222,000 miles (357,300 kilometers) away. The super moon of February 19 will be a little closer and one in March will be the farthest.
The Associated Press's Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Scientific Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.