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August 28, The Supermoon rises above Manhattan
Photograph: Sam Yee/Strykapose on FlickrAugust 28, The Supermoon rises above Manhattan

Everything you need to know about this weekend’s supermoon eclipse

Written by
Will Sabel Courtney

Feel like there's nothing good to watch on Sunday nights since Game of Thrones is off the air? Well, this Sunday 27, don't bother trying to get into Quantico—turn off the tube and head outside to check out the supermoon lunar eclipse. What does that mean, exactly? Start channeling your inner Neil deGrasse Tyson, because things are about to get science-y.

How your friends will feel when you drop all this knowledge on them. via GIPHY

The lunar eclipse is safe to look at.
During a lunar eclipse, the Earth passes directly between the sun and the moon, casting its shadow on our jolly satellite. (Or to put it another way, Earth is literally throwing shade on the moon.) This means that, unlike a solar eclipse, where the moon passes directly between Earth and Sol, it's perfectly safe to stare at the lunar eclipse for as long as you like. 

That red color is perfectly normal.
In a lunar eclipse, the Earth's shadow makes the moon look a deep, dark red. That's because, even at peak eclipse, a tiny amount of sunlight sneaks past the Earth through the edges of its atmosphere, causing the light to spread out and scatter—which in turn causes it to grow dimmer and redder. (It's the exact same thing that happens at sunrise and sunset.) Just enough of this diffuse sunlight hits the moon to give it a menacing crimson hue that looks a little like blood, which is why people used to refer to the lunar eclipse as a "blood moon."

Supermoon: Not that super, but still cool.
Fun fact: the moon's circular orbit around the Earth isn't actually a circle. It's an ellipse. At its closest, also known as its "perigee," the moon is 30,000 miles closer to Earth than it is at its farthest. This makes it appear about 14 percent larger and around 30 percent brighter than when the moon is at its farthest point from earth, which is known as its "perigee."


Supermoon + lunar eclipse = super-rare.
Lunar eclipses, which can only happen during a full moon, happen a handful of times every year. A supermoon rolls around roughly once every 14 full moons. So the odds of the two events syncing up are pretty rare—the last one happened in 1982, and the next one will happen in 2033.

You've got time to get that perfect Instagram.
The moon will begin to darken at 8:11pm. By 9:07, you'll see a small bite start to appear in the side of the lunar disc; it'll take almost an hour for the shadow to cover it, but at 10:11pm, the entire moon will be in lunar eclipse. It'll start to slide out of Earth's shadow at 11:23pm, and finally return to full brightness at 12:27am. So yeah, you don't have to rush to the window at any specific moment to catch that perfect picture. (That said, if you do want a good pic of the supermoon eclipse, be sure to use a tripod—or at least balance your camera on something sturdy.)


You'll be sharing the experience with a lot of other people.
A lunar eclipse is only visible to a certain part of the world, depending on where the Earth happens to be during its daily spin when its shadow hits the moon. New York City happens to be lucky enough to be in the right place and right time for a stellar view (hiyo!) of this eclipse, along with Chicago, New Orleans, Costa Rica, Panama, and all of South America. People in the westernmost parts of Europe and Africa will be able to see it, too—but due to the time difference, far fewer people will be awake to catch it. As for your buddies in California, well, they'll be lucky to catch a glimpse of the eclipse as the moon rises above the eastern horizon. (Hey, you told them they'd regret moving to L.A.)

...assuming the weather holds up.
That said, the forecast calls for a chance of cloudy skies on Sunday night. Guess if it's cloudy, we'll just have to...


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