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‘Blood moon’ eclipse visible after midnight

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Don’t blink. There’s a total eclipse of the moon early Saturday morning — and it’s an unusually short one.

If there are clear skies, the 3 1/2 -hour spectacle is visible from start to finish in Hawaii starting just after midnight and from the western U.S. and Canada where it occurs before dawn. Skygazers in the Midwest and East Coast only get part of the lunar show.

The eclipse can also be seen in its entirety Saturday night from eastern Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Europe and Africa are shut out.

Things to know about the celestial attraction:

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WHEN IS THE ECLIPSE VISIBLE IN HAWAII?

The eclipse of the moon begins at 12:15 a.m. as a bigger and bigger ‘bite’ is taken out of the moon as it enters the earth’s shadow. Totality begins at 1:58 a.m. and the moon appears very dark and often assumes a copper color. at 2:02 a.m. the brief total phase of the lunar eclipse ends as the moon starts to move out of the earth’s shadow. The eclipse ends at 3:45 a.m.

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HOW LONG IS THE TOTAL ECLIPSE?

NASA calculates the total eclipse — the moment when Earth’s shadow completely blocks the moon — at only five minutes. Using a different model, the U.S. Naval Observatory put it at about 12 minutes. In either case, it’s the shortest lunar eclipse of the century.

On the west coast of North America, the total eclipse — what astronomers call totality — begins shortly before 5 a.m. PDT.

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WHY SO BRIEF?

In this case, the moon skims the upper part of Earth’s shadow. If the moon passes through the middle of the shadow, the eclipse lasts longer.

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WHY A "BLOOD MOON" DURING THE ECLIPSE?

"Blood moon" refers to its orange or red appearance — the result of sunlight scattering off Earth’s atmosphere. Whether the moon appears dark red, copper, bronze or another shade depends on several factors including the amount of volcanic ash in the atmosphere.

"That’s what makes lunar eclipses so interesting," said Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington.

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WHEN IS THE NEXT TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE?

The next full eclipse of the moon occurs on Sept. 28 and will be visible across the U.S. and Canada, as well as western Europe and Africa. Totality will last a little over an hour.

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IS SPECIAL EQUIPMENT NEEDED TO WATCH?

Unlike solar eclipses which require eye protection, you only need clear skies to view a lunar eclipse. A pair of binoculars or backyard telescope will enhance your view, but they’re not necessary.

"Get a comfortable chair … and just look up," said Mitzi Adams, an astronomer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

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Online:

NASA’s eclipse map: http://go.usa.gov/3gwxP

Watch: http://new.livestream.com/GriffithObservatoryTV

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