SCIENCE

Total Lunar Eclipse On Saturday Will Last For Just 5 Minutes

04/01/2015 04:12 am ET | Updated Apr 01, 2015

Keep your eyes on the skies on Saturday morning for what promises to be a spectacular -- if brief -- total eclipse of the moon.

The totality will last for less than 5 minutes, making it the shortest lunar eclipse of the century, according to NASA. During some lunar eclipses, totality can last for more than an hour.

Lunar eclipses occur when the moon enters Earth's shadow. In this case, the moon is entering the very edge of that shadow instead of running right through the heart of it, which is why the eclipse will be so fleeting.

NASA has prepared a map showing where the eclipse will be visible. In the United States, the total eclipse will be observable from the West Coast to the U3 line (which runs roughly along the Mississippi River), while a partial lunar eclipse will be visible east of that line, with sunrise cutting the event short:

eclipse

More diagrams of the eclipse are available on the Sky & Telescope website.

The eclipse will begin at 3:16 a.m. PT when the shadow of the earth begins to cover the moon. Totality will begin at 4:58 a.m. PT, with the greatest eclipse at 5 a.m. and totality ending at 5:03 a.m. The remaining partial eclipse will last until 6:45 a.m. PT, according to NASA.

Because the moon can look red during an eclipse, the event is sometimes called a "blood moon."

This eclipse is the third in a tetrad, or a period of four eclipses, which began on April 15, 2014. The next and final lunar eclipse in the cycle will be on Sept. 28.

In addition, NASA astronomer Mitzi Adams will answer questions on Twitter (@NASA_Marshall) from 6 a.m. ET until the end of the eclipse.

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