Californians Get Prime Seat for Lunar Eclipse

Weather permitting, of course

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images/Bruno Vincent

    'Twill be nights before Christmas and high overhead, the moon will turn brown or maybe deep red.

    The Earth and the sun with celestial scripts will conspire to make a lunar eclipse, which should be visible Monday night on the West Coast, weather permitting.

    Californians should be able to view the entire show, which is expected to last 3½ hours if skies are clear. Total eclipse begins at 11:41 p.m. Monday. The totality phase -- when the moon is entirely inside Earth's shadow -- will last a little over an hour.

    Sky gazers in North and Central America and a tiny sliver of South America will boast the best seats to this year's only total eclipse of the moon.

    The moon is normally illuminated by the sun. During a total lunar eclipse, the full moon passes through the shadow created by the Earth blocking the sun's light. Some indirect sunlight will still manage to pierce through and give the moon a ghostly color.

    Since the eclipse coincides with winter solstice, the moon will appear high in the sky -- a boon for skywatchers. With recent volcanic eruptions around the globe dumping tons of dust into the atmosphere, scientists predict the moon may appear darker than usual during the eclipse, glowing an eerie red or brown instead of the usual orange-yellow tinge.

    Unlike solar eclipses which require protective glasses, lunar eclipses are safe to watch with the naked eye.