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Supermoon eclipse: What is it and where can you watch it around Los Angeles?

A previous "blood moon" as seen from Koreatown, west of Los Angeles.

There are lots of exciting programs coming to your televisions this fall, but for star-watchers, the best show will be in the sky — as usual.

Sunday, Sept. 27, we'll be treated to a total lunar eclipse and a so-called "supermoon" during primetime viewing hours. That means not only will the moon be completely covered by the Earth's shadow, it will also appear about 14 percent larger in the sky than it usually does.

This happens because the moon's orbit is elliptical, so sometimes it flies closer to the Earth and sometimes it's further away. When it's full and closer than usual, it's referred to as a "supermoon."

What time is the supermoon lunar eclipse?

Here's what to expect this Sunday:

  • 6:43 p.m. — The sun will set and the moon will be rising to the east. At this point, the moon will already be partially eclipsed
  • 7:11 p.m. — The total eclipse begins as the Earth's shadow fully shrouds the moon
  • 7:48 p.m. — The eclipse reaches its peak and the moon appears its darkest
  • 8:23 p.m. — The total eclipse ends as part of the moon leaves Earth's shadow
  • 9:27 p.m. — All of the moon exits Earth's shadow and the show is over

Sometimes a total lunar eclipse is called a "blood moon," because the moon can turn a reddish hue during the event. That happens because, even though the Earth blocks most light from the sun, some of the longer rays of light — like reds and oranges — can curve around our planet's atmosphere to paint the moon a coppery shade.

In fact, the recent wildfires in California may impact the moon's color even more. According to the Sierra Club, "the soot in the air may change the appearance of the lunar eclipse, making it darker or possibly more violet, depending on the amount and type of aerosols and how they filter the view."

Where to watch it

The nice thing about a lunar eclipse is that, unlike a solar eclipse, you don't need any fancy glasses or gizmos to watch it. Just point your peepers at the moon and stare away. Go ahead, we won't stop you. If you have binoculars or a telescope, that will improve your view.

If you want to make a night of it, here are some special places to watch the eclipse:

  • Griffith Observatory will host a free public viewing party starting at 6:30 p.m. There will be binoculars, telescopes and live piano music by Ray Ushikubo of the Colburn School. He'll be performing moon-related pieces, as you'd expect. "Moonlight Sonata," anyone? Blankets are welcome — but no chairs. Expect large crowds. If you want to watch this event from home, there will be a live video stream.
  • The Department of Physics and Astronomy at UC Riverside is hosting a viewing of the eclipse on campus from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. This Friday, the school is putting on a free public talk on lunar eclipses, and on Saturday, UCR astronomers will lead a two-hour workshop showing people how to use a telescope.
  • Clockshop, an arts group in Frogtown, is putting on a campfire story-time at the Los Angeles River. Hear authors Robin Coste Lewis and Ben Loory read "slightly spooky stories" as the moon rises. Bring your own picnic supplies and RSVP if you are interested.
  • Cal State Fullerton is breaking out the telescopes for a viewing party at the Fullerton Arboretum. Fun for all ages, but bring some cash: it's five dollars to get in unless you have a CSUF student Titan card or are a child under the age of three.
  • State Parks are a great place to see the show. Glenn Miller, a Tongva (Gabrielino) Indian astronomer recommends hiking to the top of Saddleback Butte in Lancaster. "This will provide a great opportunity for an eclipse party or a romantic alfresco dinner," he noted in a release from the California State Parks. 

Of course, any vista with an unobstructed view of the east should provide a nice look at the eclipse, so make a plan and enjoy! Be sure to bring a blanket or a sweater if it gets chilly.