More than 2 billion people will have the opportunity late Sunday and early Monday to witness a rare celestial event: a total eclipse of a supermoon.
The eclipse will last more than an hour and, weather permitting, will be visible to more than a billion people in the Western Hemisphere and another 1.5 billion in in Europe, Africa and western Asia.
The moon will enter the Earth’s shadow and start to turn a copper red shortly after 1 a.m. UTC Monday (9 p.m. EDT Sunday). Astronomers say the moon will stay red for more than 70 minutes before it begins to emerge from the shadow.
The midpoint of the eclipse in Europe and Africa will occur between midnight and dawn in the western skies.
A supermoon occurs when a full moon coincides with the moon’s closest point to Earth, making the moon appear bigger and brighter in the sky than usual. On Monday, the moon’s elliptical orbit will bring it about 50,000 kilometers closer to the Earth than when it is at its farthest point.
A lunar eclipse happens when Earth blocks the sunlight that illuminates the moon. Scientists say an astronaut standing on the moon during the full eclipse would see a dark Earth outlined by a brilliant red ring.
From start to finish, the supermoon eclipse, which last occurred in 1982, will last about five hours. The next such eclipse will occur in 2033.