Next Sunday, before you settle in to eat dinner and watch football, set a reminder to look up toward the night sky. NASA says a very rare supermoon eclipse will take place on Sept. 27. And the entire event will be live streamed by NASA if you’re unable to view it yourself; the agency will also hold a discussion about the eclipse and answer questions from Twitter as it’s happening.
There hasn’t been a supermoon eclipse for more than 30 years (in 1982, to be exact), making next week’s event particularly special. And if you miss it this year, the next event isn’t expected to occur until 2033—I’ll be an old man by then. For some people, it only happens once in a lifetime, so you won’t want to miss it. All you have to do is go outside and look up.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the full moon passes through the umbra, otherwise known as the darkest part of Earth’s shadow. A “supermoon” is when the moon makes its closest approach to Earth, which can cause it to look up to 14 percent larger than usual. Combine the two, and you have a pretty spectacular sight.
As totality approaches, sunlight reaches the moon indirectly and is refracted around the “edges” of Earth, through Earth’s atmosphere. Because of this, almost all colors except red are “filtered” out, and the eclipsed moon appears reddish or dark brown. This filtering is caused by particulates in our atmosphere; when there have been a lot of fires and/or volcanic eruptions, lunar eclipses will appear darker and redder. This eerie — but harmless — effect has earned the phenomenon the nickname “blood moon.”
NASA estimates the supermoon eclipse will last for about 1 hour, and will be visible in most parts of the world, including North and South America, Europe, and Africa. Unless you absolutely hate the beauty and mystery of space, you won’t want to miss next week’s show.
If Mother Nature gets in the way of your viewing party, NASA says it will being its live stream at 8 p.m. EST, giving you a front row view of the celestial spectacle.