In the predawn hours on Tuesday, a total lunar eclipse will hang in the autumn sky.
Starting just after 3 a.m., the sun, Earth, and moon will start to fall squarely into alignment – bringing about a full lunar eclipse around 5:16 a.m. The eclipse reaches its maximum about 45 minutes later.
Other celestial landmarks will also be viewable, such as neighboring red-orange Mars and the Pleiades star cluster. All of these events are easy to see with the naked eye, even through New York City’s artificial light pollution.
“If they get up early and have their morning coffee, they should be checking out the eclipse,” said Bart Fried, vice president of the Amateur Astronomers Association.
Sometimes known as a blood moon given its reddish tinge, a total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth positions itself directly between the moon and sun, casting a full shadow over the moon. Watching from beginning to end will take more than three hours, but just after 4 a.m., stargazers can get a mid-eclipse view. Binoculars aren’t necessary, but the enlarged view allows for more dramatic detail.
“You can see that the moon is kind of getting gobbled up by a shadow,” Fried said. “The difference is striking and magnificent."
Not far from the moon that evening, Mars will appear as a bright and reddish glow in the night sky. It will be easy to spot because it will seem brighter than the stars out there.
“If you're looking at the moon, you'll notice Mars, you won't miss it,” Fried said. “It will be above and to the left of the moon and not that far away.”
The Pleiades star cluster will also be close by and visible at the time of the lunar eclipse. Looking like a tangle of string lights, these thousands of stars are one of the brightest and closest clusters to the Earth at about 400 light years away.
“This is one of the true jewels for binocular astronomy,” Fried said.
The Nov. 8 event will mark the second total lunar eclipse this year. The city’s next lunar eclipse will be a partial one on Oct. 28, 2023.