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Blood Moon, Lunar Eclipse Viewing May Be Tough With Cloudy Skies

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Blood moon seen over Cuba during a 2004 eclipse. (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)

Blood moon seen over Cuba during a 2004 eclipse. (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — Have you heard the buzz about a “blood moon” tonight? Sounds like something out of a sci-fi or vampire movie, but in actuality it is simply a lunar eclipse. It is fairly rare that we get to see a total lunar eclipse, in fact it has been since 2011 since one occurred in North America.

So what’s the deal with the term “blood moon?”

An eclipse happens when the moon passes through Earth’s shadow. The color of Earth’s shadow is typically a reddish hue, depending mostly on the amount of volcanic ash and other aerosols in our stratosphere. This go around, our atmosphere is actually rather clean and clear so instead of blood-red, the moon may appear more orange.

Before I go through the whole timeline for viewing tonight I should mention that for many in Southern New England, there won’t be much to see. Unfortunately, some clouds will begin to stream in this evening from the south, blocking what would otherwise be a terrific view. Best chance of any clear skies would be over Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands, but even there it is far from certain. Just something to consider before getting too excited and setting your alarm for the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday.

For those early risers who may be lucky enough to have a few holes in the clouds, here is what you can expect to see…

At 1:20 a.m – The penumbral eclipse begins. The moon enters the Earth’s penumbra, or the weak, outer edge of its shadow. This will be tough to see at first, nothing real obvious until the true partial eclipse begins.

At 1:58 a.m. – The moon enters the umbra and begins to get completely covered in a red-black shadow…this deep shadow slowly works its way across the entire lunar surface until..

At 3:07 a.m. – Total eclipse begins. If you were on the moon, the sun would be completely hidden now. From Earth, the moon appears as a dimly lit orange sphere.

At 4:25 a.m. – The total eclipse ends and everything happens in reverse now. The full, bright moon emerges in the opposite direction from which it was hidden.

At 5:33 a.m. – The partial eclipse ends, show over!

Again, I wouldn’t advise getting your hopes up for this one, clouds will absolutely be a factor. However, a bit of good news: This is just the first of four total lunar eclipses in the next year and a half! We will have several more chances to witness this amazing event; October 8th of this year, and then April 4th and September 28th in 2015.

Happy viewing!

You can follow Terry on Twitter @TerryWBZ

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