(WGHP) – While Tuesday, Nov. 8, is already an important day, Election Day, it is also the next opportunity to view a total lunar eclipse! 

The eclipse will occur in the very early morning hours on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Weather permitting, it will be visible from the Piedmont Triad and it will be the last total lunar eclipse to occur until 2025. 

What happens during a total lunar eclipse? 

There are several phases during a total lunar eclipse. 

The first is the penumbra, earth’s soft shadow, casts a subtle shadow on the moon resulting in the dimming of the brightness to the moon. 

The next phase is a partial eclipse. This occurs when the moon begins to move into the umbra, earth’s hard shadow. During the partial eclipse phase, it will look as though a chunk of the moon is disappearing because earth’s umbra will block the sunlight reaching the moon’s surface. 

The partial lunar eclipse will eventually become a total eclipse. The total eclipse occurs when the umbra of the earth is casting a shadow upon the entirety of the moon’s surface. During this phase, the moon may appear red. 

The total eclipse ends when the moon begins to re-emerge from behind the earth’s umbra, or hard shadow, into the penumbra, or soft shadow. The amount of the moon darkened will continue to decrease until the moon completely exits earth’s penumbra, returning to full illumination. 

Why does the moon appear red during a total lunar eclipse? 

During a lunar eclipse, the earth is located directly between the sun and the moon which results in earth’s shadow blocking the direct sunlight from reaching the moon’s surface. However, some of the light from the sun can pass through the earth’s atmosphere and shine light on the surface of the moon. 

The light that is able to reach the moon travels through a large portion of the atmosphere, which is similar to what happens in the sky at sunrise and sunset on earth’s surface. 

The result is colors on the visible light spectrum with shorter wavelengths, like blues and purples, get scattered out. Longer wavelength portions of the spectrum, like reds and oranges, will pass through earth’s atmosphere and reach the moon. 

The more particles that are suspended in the earth’s atmosphere where the light is passing through, the more vibrant the red tint on the moon can be. 

What is the timeline for the total lunar eclipse? 

The Penumbral Eclipse Phase – The moon will begin entering earth’s soft shadow, penumbra, at 3:02 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8. This initial phase will not be very noticeable other than the moon appearing dimmer as earth’s soft shadow begins to move over the moon’s surface. The moon will not be completely darkened until the partial phase begins. 

The Partial Eclipse Phase – Earth’s hard shadow, the umbra, will begin to darken the moon at 4:09 a.m. As time passes, more of the moon will darken as the earth’s shadow blocks the sun’s light from reaching the moon. The moon will steadily grow darker through 5:16 a.m. 

The Total Eclipse Phase – At 5:16 a.m. the earth’s umbra will completely block all direct sunlight from reaching the moon’s surface. At this point, the total lunar eclipse will be underway. The moon will likely appear red during this phase as long-wave visible light escapes earth’s atmosphere and casts a glow on the moon. The moon will be deepest in the earth’s shadow at 5:59 a.m. The total eclipse phase will continue until 6:41 a.m. 

Partial Eclipse Phase Two – At 6:41 a.m., the moon will begin exiting the earth’s umbra. At this point, the direct light from the sun will begin to reach the moon’s surface again. As time passes, more of the moon will become bright and visible. The moon will have completely exited earth’s hard shadow by 7:49 a.m. 

Penumbral Eclipse Phase Two – Once the moon has exited the umbra, it will still be shadowed by earth’s soft shadow. This phase will last from 7:49 a.m. until 8:56 a.m. The brightness of the moon may appear dulled during this phase however most will not notice this part of the eclipse with a naked eye. 

The total lunar eclipse will be complete after 8:56 a.m. 

How to view the total eclipse in the Triad

Weather permitting, totality will be visible for the entirety of North Carolina.  However, the state will only be able to see the first three phases of the eclipse, the penumbral eclipse, partial eclipse, and the entirety of the total eclipse. 

The moon will set at 6:56 a.m., dropping below the horizon line and therefore no longer visible in the Triad. 

Anything that occurs with the lunar eclipse after 6:56 a.m. will not be able to be seen due to the moon being below the horizon line. The bright side of this is that we will be able to see totality! 

No special equipment is needed to view the eclipse but you may want some coffee to keep you awake during the very early morning hours.

When is the next total lunar eclipse? 

After the Nov. 8 total lunar eclipse, the next total lunar eclipse will not be until 2025! There will be penumbral and partial lunar eclipses between now and then but the next total eclipse will not occur until March 14, 2025.