The celestial curtain will soon rise on a lunar extravaganza.
On Sunday night, the Earth will slide directly between the moon and the sun, creating a total lunar eclipse visible across all of North America — weather-permitting. It will also be the year's first supermoon, when a full moon appears a little bigger and brighter thanks to its slightly closer position to Earth.
The entire eclipse will exceed three hours. Totality — when the moon is completely bathed in Earth's shadow — will last an hour, starting at about 10:41 p.m. in Minnesota.
"As the moon begins to enter the shadow... it looks like something is biting into the moon; it just starts disappearing, slowly," said Dave Falkner, president of the Minnesota Astronomical Society. "Once it (fully) enters the shadow, it actually has kind of an orangish-reddish color, caused by the sunlight that separates the colors of the rainbow; the red tends to curve around the Earth and then illuminate the moon."
The reddish color is why an eclipsed moon is sometimes called a "blood moon."
The partial eclipse will start at about 9:30 p.m. in Minnesota, with totality beginning at about 10:41 p.m. Totality — with the moon taking on that reddish hue — will last about an hour. After that, the moon will gradually move out of the Earth's shadow, with the eclipse ending just before 1 a.m. Monday.
The forecast is calling for increasing clouds across the state on Sunday night — but many areas should remain at least partly clear through the eclipse.
If skies aren't overcast, the lunar eclipse will be visible to anyone.
"You don't need any kind of equipment," Falkner told MPR News. "A lunar eclipse, you can just step outside and find a clear area where you can see the moon, and you'll be able to see the eclipse."
A pair of binoculars or a telescope, of course, can enhance the view. And while the moon is eclipsed, it can be easier to spot stars in the sky.
The Minnesota Astronomical Society is hosting a free eclipse- and star-watching party starting at 7 p.m. Sunday at its Eagle Lake Observatory, 10775 County Road 33 in Norwood-Young America west of the Twin Cities. Find more details here.
"It's not a common event... it's really pretty impressive when you see the moon disappear into the shadow and then it gets that reddish-orangish color," Falkner said. "It's pretty cool."