On Tuesday there will be a spectacular total eclipse of the moon. That’s the good news.

The bad news is the best part of the eclipse takes place after midnight and continues into the early morning hours on Tuesday.

Fortunately lunar eclipses last for several hours, and even if there are clouds, a small break in the clouds allows the moon to shine through. Fiery red Mars will be less than 10 degrees away from the moon and blue/white Spica will be two degrees from the totally eclipsed moon.

Total lunar eclipses always occur at full moon when the moon is behind the Earth from the sun and the Earth’s long shadow is cast upon the moon. During the penumbral phase of a lunar eclipse, the moon enters a region of partial shadowing and is darkened somewhat. This begins at 9:55 p.m. on Monday evening. At 10:59, the moon enters the Earth’s umbra where there is complete shadowing. The moon gets progressively darker as it moves deeper into the umbra. The moon becomes fully eclipsed at 12:07 a.m. Tuesday, and eclipse maximum is at 12:46.

Theoretically, the moon should disappear from sight during totality, but that rarely happens. Instead the moon becomes a gorgeous copper color due to sunlight being scattered by the Earth’s atmosphere and somewhat focused on the moon. The moon starts to leave totality at 1:25 a.m. and fully leaves the umbral shadow at 2:33. The eclipse ends at 3:37 when the moon leaves the Earth’s penumbral shadow.

This is a must see event. The next similar lunar eclipse will not be until Jan. 21, 2019.

Contact Tim Hunter at skyspy@azstarnet.com