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The last total lunar eclipse until 2021 takes place in January

Reuters / Jean-Paul Pelissier
The moon is seen during a total lunar eclipse from Marseille, France, on July 27, 2018.
  • Annabelle Timsit
By Annabelle Timsit

Geopolitics reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

On the night of Jan. 20, people in North and South America, Greenland, Iceland, and parts of Europe and Africa will get a rare glimpse of a total lunar eclipse. While in ancient times, the moon’s discoloration or disappearance was a terrifying occurrence, today many people consider total lunar eclipses a rare treat. In fact this one, the first since July 2018, will be the last total lunar eclipse until May 2021.

Here’s what you need to know about how, when, and where to watch the eclipse.

What is a total lunar eclipse?

During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth blocks the sun’s light and casts a shadow, or umbra, over the moon. This means that, for about an hour overnight, the full moon will turn the same copper or reddish color as a sunset.

This year’s total lunar eclipse is particularly special, because the upcoming full moon is expected to be bigger and brighter than the average full moon—what’s known as a “supermoon.”

Unlike during a solar eclipse, you don’t need any special glasses to watch the lunar eclipse.

Where can I watch the lunar eclipse?

The lunar eclipse will be at least partially visible from some parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, the Arctic, and the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. But only a lucky few in North and South America, Greenland, Iceland, and some western parts of Europe and Africa will experience the total lunar eclipse. The rest will see only a partial view of the eclipse, or nothing at all.

You can find is a complete map of the eclipse’s path here or below:

Credit: Fred Espenak, NASA

When can I watch the lunar eclipse?

According to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the Jan. 20-21 total lunar eclipse will last one hour and two minutes (pdf). The full event, from the beginning to the end of the partial eclipse, will last a little over three hours.

If you are on the east coast of the United States, the partial eclipse will begin on Jan. 20 at 10:33pm EST. The total eclipse will start around 11:41pm and last until about 12:43am on Jan. 21. The peak of the eclipse (the moment when the moon is closest to the axis of the Earth’s shadow) will be at 12:16am.

For example, people living in Los Angeles, California, will conveniently see the total eclipse between 8:41pm and 9:43pm PST on Jan. 20. But for those living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, seeing the total eclipse will be more of an investment; they’ll have to be awake between 2:41am and 3:43am local time.


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