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Here's When You Can See Sunday's Blood Moon Total Lunar Eclipse

Turn around, bright eyes.
Turn around, bright eyes. Nick Bramhall/CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr
A stunning celestial event involving the moon is set to take place in the skies over Arizona and the rest of the U.S. this weekend, and it won’t be hard to see.

A total lunar eclipse will happen on Sunday evening, May 15, during prime time hours and will allow skywatchers the chance to witness the astronomical phenomenon, which occurs when the moon passes through the Earth's shadow.

Known as a “blood moon total eclipse,” owing to the fact the moon will turn reddish-orange during the event, it will take place between 7 and 10 p.m.

Unlike previous total lunar eclipses over Arizona, you won’t need to stay up late or wake up early. Skies will also be relatively clear.

Claude Haynes of the East Valley Astronomy Club says it will be optimal viewing conditions and you won't need a telescope to see the eclipse, since the moon will be easily visible in the sky.

“It's going to be an easily accessible lunar eclipse since circumstances will align to allow many people to watch it happen,” he says. “So people can sit in their backyards and watch the progression of the eclipse over a period of time during the evening.”

Haynes says it will also be a sight to behold.

“You'll be able to just go outside and view it without needing any equipment or astronomical training,” he says. “It's just a fun phenomenon.”

Here’s a rundown of all the details about when to see the celestial majesty unfold.

When Will Sunday’s Lunar Eclipse Happen?

During the two-hour stretch from 7 and 9 p.m., which will be the best time to watch.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of what will happen: Moonrise will take place in the eastern sky beginning at 7:13 p.m. with the first hints of the eclipse starting at around 7:28 p.m. A shadow will gradually creep across the moon over the next hour, causing it to darken and change color.

“As it gets darker, the moon will start to get a reddish or coppery color from the light shining around the edges of the earth,” Haynes says. “That’s why it's sometimes referred to as a ‘blood moon.’”

The eclipse will reach totality (or its darkest point) by 8:30 p.m. After approximately 50 minutes or so, the darkness will begin to receed and the Earth's shadow will be gone by 10:54 p.m.
Haynes says the first part of the eclipse and the buildup to totality will be the most spectacular part of the experience.

“It’s something you don’t want to miss,” he says.

What Are Viewing Conditions Going to Be Like?

Pretty good, actually. The current forecast calls for mostly clear skies on Sunday night with few clouds to obscure the moon or your view of it.
click to enlarge What's in store for the moon on Sunday night. - BERND THALLER/CC BY 2.0/FLICKR
What's in store for the moon on Sunday night.

Will I Need Any Special Equipment to Watch?

No. As we said, the eclipse will be a naked-eye event, which means you won’t need to use a telescope or binoculars to see it, unless you’d like to get a more detailed look.

“If you've got binoculars, they work great, since it's pretty much a stationary event in the sky and the moon isn't that far away, relatively speaking,” Haynes says. “Just go outside and enjoy the view.”

Will There Be Any Public Viewing Parties or Events?

Yes. The East Valley Astronomy Club will host a viewing event from sunset until 9:30 p.m. on Sunday at their observatory within Gilbert’s Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, 2757 East Guadalupe Road. Haynes says they’ll have a number of telescopes set up for the public to use. Admission is free.

Meanwhile, the Astronomy Association of Arizona will offer a free viewing party at Redmond Ball Field, 20756 West Maiden Lane in Buckeye, starting at 7 p.m. on Sunday night. Various telescopes will be available, including one where the public can get moon photos using their phones. A pair of educators will also be on hand to help youths create their own moon craters and the Technical Research & Engineering Company will bring its spaceflight simulator Voyager to the event.

Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff will also live-stream the eclipse through its website and YouTube during a virtual viewing event from 7:15 p.m. to midnight. Members of the observatory’s staff will also host eclipse-themed presentations throughout the livestream. It’s free to watch.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.