For the first time since 2011, people in the United States will be able to see a total eclipse of the moon, starting at about 2 a.m. Eastern time this evening (a civilized 11 pm for those on the West Coast). Unlike a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse is totally safe to watch without eye protection, and lasts for a few hours. It can be a spectacular thing to see. (The image above was taken in 2008).
Vox, our favorite new news site, has a great article that explains what exactly you’ll be seeing. This graphic will give you the idea instantly:
Over the course of a few hours, our planet will pass between the moon and the sun, blocking the sun’s light from illuminating the moon as it usually does at night. But small amounts of light will pass through our dust-filled atmosphere and hit the moon, causing it to appear bright red — the reason lunar eclipses are often called “blood moons.”