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Cosmic wonder as total lunar eclipse combines with supermoon

While the eclipse won't be visible in every part of the world, the brighter than usual Moon will be easy to spot for everyone

The moon rises over the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. This moon is a supermoon, meaning it appears larger than an average full moon because it is nearer the closest point of its orbit to Earth. (AP)

The first total lunar eclipse in more than two years coincides with a supermoon this week for quite a cosmic show.

This super “blood” moon will be visible Wednesday across the Pacific — offering the best viewing — as well as the western half of North America, bottom of South America and eastern Asia.

Better look quick: The total eclipse will last about 15 minutes as Earth passes directly between the moon and the sun. But the entire show will last five hours, as Earth's shadow gradually covers the moon, then starts to ebb. The reddish-orange color is the result of all the sunrises and sunsets in Earth’s atmosphere projected onto the surface of the eclipsed moon.

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“Hawaii has the best seat in the house and then short of that will be California and the Pacific Northwest,” said NASA’s Noah Petro, project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. New Zealand and Australia also will have prime viewing.

Circling the moon for 12 years, the orbiter will measure temperatures changes on the lunar surface during the eclipse. Telescopes atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea also will monitor the moon, Petro said.

The moon will be setting and the sun rising along the U.S. East Coast, leaving skygazers — Petro in Virginia included — pretty much out of luck. Europe, Africa and western Asia will miss everything. There will be livestreams available.

Everyone everywhere, though, can still soak in the brighter than usual moon, weather permitting.

The supermoon is seen behind the sculptures on the roof of the cathedral in Dresden, Germany, April 27, 2021.
The supermoon is seen behind the sculptures on the roof of the cathedral in Dresden, Germany, April 27, 2021. (REUTERS)

The moon will be more than 220,000 miles (357,460 kilometers) away at its fullest. It's this proximity, combined with a full moon, that qualifies it as a supermoon, making it appear slightly bigger and more brilliant in the sky.

Last month’s supermoon, by contrast, was 96 miles (155 kilometers) more distant. Unlike a solar eclipse, there's no harm in looking at an eclipsed moon.

More lunar shows are on the horizon. “For people who might feel like we’re missing out, set your calendars for Nov. 19 of this year,” Petro said. This will be a nearly total eclipse where the moon dims but doesn’t turn red. The next total lunar eclipse will be May 2022. The last one was January 2019.

For people in India, the lunar eclipse, which will occur on May 26, will be visible in the country for a short span from northeastern India, some parts of West Bengal, coastal parts of Odisha and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a Press Trust of India report noted.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the eclipse will be visible in the region covering South America, North America, Asia, Australia, Antarctica, the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, the PTI report adds.

"From India, just after moonrise, ending of partial phase of the eclipse will be visible for a short span of time from the northeastern parts (except Sikkim), some parts of West Bengal, some costal parts of Odisha and Andaman and Nicobar Islands," the IMD said.

The partial phase of the eclipse will begin at 3.15 pm and end at 6.23 pm, while the total phase will begin at 4.39 pm and end at 4.58 pm.

(With inputs from PTI and AP)

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