Longest partial lunar eclipse in nearly 600 years coming this week

The longest partial lunar eclipse in nearly 600 years will grace the night sky late Thursday night and early Friday morning across the entire country, weather permitting. 

According to NASA, the eclipse will be three hours and 28 minutes long, which is the longest partial eclipse of this century and the longest in 580 years. 

For U.S. East Coast observers, the partial eclipse begins a little after 2 a.m. Friday, reaching its maximum at 4 in the morning. For observers on the West Coast, that translates to beginning just after 11 p.m. Thursday, with a maximum at 1 a.m. Friday.

And you don't need any special glasses to see it, unlike during a solar eclipse. All you need is to be able to wake up and get out there, along with a coat to keep warm during the chilly November night.

How to watch: The longest partial lunar eclipse of this century is coming

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"Partial lunar eclipses might not be quite as spectacular as total lunar eclipses – where the moon is completely covered in Earth's shadow – but they occur more frequently," NASA said in a description of the eclipse. 

A lunar eclipse happens when the sun, Earth, and a full moon form a near-perfect lineup in space, in what is known as syzygy, the American Astronomical Society said. The moon gradually glides into Earth's shadow, until most of the lunar disk turns from silvery gray to an eerie dim orange or red. Then events unfold in reverse order, until the moon returns to full brilliance. 

Another sky spectacle: The Leonid meteor shower peaks early Wednesday and Thursday: Here's how to see shooting stars

At maximum eclipse, the moon's face will be 97% covered by the deepest part of the Earth's shadow and will probably turn a deep red, Indiana's Holcomb Observatory said. This leaves behind only a tiny, silvery sliver of the moon’s southern edge peeking out, according to the American Astronomical Society. 

"The moon will be in Taurus and pleasingly placed some 6° — approximately the width of three fingers held together at arm’s length — lower left of the pretty Pleiades open star cluster at the time of maximum eclipse,” said Diana Hannikainen, observing editor at Sky & Telescope magazine. "This should provide great opportunities for some fun photos." 

November's full moon is traditional known as the Beaver Moon, Space.com said, as beavers are preparing for winter, hence this month's event's Beaver Moon eclipse moniker.

This is the last lunar eclipse of the year. There will be two total lunar eclipses visible in most of the U.S. in 2022, one in May and the other in November, NASA said. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lunar eclipse 2021: Longest partial lunar eclipse in nearly 600 years

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