November’s full moon will be extra special for casual and seasoned stargazers alike.
The full moon in November is known as the “Beaver Moon” because this is the time of year when beavers finish preparing for winter and move into their lodges, according to the Old Farmers’ Almanac. When the fur trade flourished in North America, this was also the time of year to trap beavers because they had thick coats that were ready for winter’s cold temperatures.
What’s really noteworthy, however, is that the full moon on November 8 will also be a “blood moon” or a total lunar eclipse. If the skies are clear, the eclipse will be visible from North America, most of South America, parts of northern and eastern Europe, Asia, and Australia.
The Blood Moon’s Color
A total lunar eclipse, which happens about twice a year, occurs when the sun, Earth, and moon are aligned so the moon moves completely into Earth’s shadow.
The moon normally appears white because the light we see is sunlight reflected off the moon’s gray, rocky surface.
During an eclipse, as the moon moves into the center of Earth’s shadow — called the umbra — its appearance darkens. Once the moon is entirely within the umbra, it appears reddish-orange because the only sunlight reaching the moon is from around the edges of Earth. Earth’s atmosphere blocks shorter wavelengths such as blue light, according to NASA.
Since only the longer wavelengths of red light can pass through Earth’s atmosphere, they give the moon its reddish-orange, or blood-like, appearance.
What’s Going To Happen, And When
Here’s what will happen during the total lunar eclipse.
First, the penumbral eclipse begins, which is when the moon enters the outer part of Earth’s shadow, known as the penumbra. The moon will appear dim but it will still be visible.
The next stage is the partial eclipse when the moon enters Earth’s umbra. To the unaided eye, when the moon moves into Earth’s umbra, it appears as if a “bite” has been taken out of the moon. That part of the moon is still visible, but it will be very dark.
Then, during totality, the moon is completely in Earth’s umbra. This is when the moon will appear coppery-red, earning its blood moon name.
As the moon leaves Earth’s umbra, and totality ends, its red color will fade. Now the moon will appear as if a “bite” were taken out of its other side.
Next, the moon will be in Earth’s penumbra again, appearing dim.
Finally, the moon will move out of Earth’s penumbra and the eclipse ends.
The entire event will begin at 3:02:15 a.m. Eastern on November 8. Stargazers on the East Coast will be able to see the total lunar eclipse, or maximum eclipse during totality, at 5:59:11 a.m. Eastern, according to Time and Date. After that, however, the moon will drop below the horizon so it will no longer be visible.
On the other hand, stargazers on the West Coast will have better viewing because the moon will remain above the horizon all night. Those stargazers will be able to watch the eclipse begin at 12:02:15 a.m. Pacific and end at 5:56:09 a.m. The maximum eclipse will occur at 2:59:11 a.m. Pacific.
You can check to see how much of the lunar eclipse will be seen in your community, and the exact time for each stage, here.
How To View The Blood Moon
Lunar eclipses are safe to view with the unaided eye, so all you’ll need to do is go outside on November 8 and look at the moon. If you use binoculars or a telescope, you’ll have an even better view of the blood moon.