The first lunar eclipse of the year is on Friday but most American stargazers might miss the visual treat

The eclipse, which begins around 12.06 pm EST and ends at 4:14 pm EST, will be visible from Europe, Africa, western Asia, and some small parts of North America


                            The first lunar eclipse of the year is on Friday but most American stargazers might miss the visual treat
(Getty Images)

Keep your eyes glued to the Moon tonight, as the Earth's shadow is about to fall on it. But unlike a full eclipse, only the outer shadow of Earth – the penumbra – will fall on the moon’s face. This is the first celestial treat this year.

The lunar eclipse, which begins around 12.06 pm EST and ends at 4:14 pm EST, will be visible from Europe, Africa, western Asia, and some small parts of North America — like Newfoundland, northern Canada and Greenland.

Most parts of North America will miss this one, as the event will unfold between late morning and early afternoon hours, when the full moon will be out of sight. But you can catch the eclipse on the Slooh community observatory's webcast, starting at 2:30 pm EST. Additionally, The Virtual Telescope Project will stream live views of the eclipse from Rome, beginning at 12 pm EST, according to Space.com.

The penumbra eclipse of the moon is easy to miss, even with a pair of sharp eyes. The outer part of the Earth's shadow is so weak that it is difficult to spot it from a great distance, such as when it is on the moon's surface. This will remain so until about 65 minutes before mid-eclipse.

In addition to this one, three other penumbral eclipses are gracing the skies on June 5, July 5 and November 30. North America will witness those happening in July and November, according to NASA.

During a total lunar eclipse, the Moon first enters into the penumbra, or the outer part of Earth's shadow, where the shadow is still penetrated by some sunlight (NASA)

NASA studies lunar eclipses to gather data on the moon's surface. "If an area of the moon's surface is flat, it will cool quickly. Scientists use this data to know which areas of the moon are rough with boulders and which are flat," says NASA.

Full moon also makes way for observation of planets. For instance, in New York, Venus will be in the western sky and Mars will rise at 4:04 am on January 11. Jupiter is expected to rise on January 11 at 6:39 am local time in New York, and Saturn sets on January 10, only 6 minutes after the sun does.

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