LOCAL L.A. Now

Total lunar eclipse to bring rare 'blood moon' to night sky

The first total eclipse of 2014 is poised to show itself Monday night in the form of a dark red "blood moon."

In Los Angeles, the most impressive part will begin at 10:58 p.m. when the first "bite" is taken out of the moon. It will be blotted out entirely by 12:06 a.m. Tuesday, said experts at the Griffith Observatory.

Look to the south for the moon, said Joe Sirard, an amateur astronomer who doubles as a National Weather Service meteorologist in Oxnard.

As the “bite” spreads across the moon, it will transform into a dark “blood moon." The dark red hue will come from the light of sunsets and sunrises over the rest of the Earth.

The weather forecast for prime "blood moon" viewing in Los Angeles could not be much better.

“We’ll have clear skies -- even down to the beaches,” Sirard said.

It will also be a great time to see Mars, which will be the brightest point of light near the moon, Sirard said. The second brightest will be the star Spica in the constellation Virgo.

If you plan to watch the eclipse, try not to be too late, he said.

Once the eclipse “becomes total … it might be somewhat hard to see at that point,” Sirard said.

Monday's total lunar eclipse will be the first in more than three years to be visible from Los Angeles and uninterrupted by sunrise. The last one began on the evening of Dec. 20, 2010, with the eclipse’s peak at 12:17 a.m. on Dec. 21, the Griffith Observatory said.

There will be more lunar eclipses soon, but the next two will peak at less convenient times in California -- 3:54 a.m. on Oct. 8, 2014, and at 5 a.m. on April 4, 2015.

But on Sept. 27, 2015, an early evening total eclipse will hit its peak at 7:47 p.m.

“We’ve got four in a row that we’re going to be seeing here in North America, which is pretty nice,” Sirard said. “It doesn’t happen too often that we get to see that many in a row.”

Viewers may also watch the eclipse from the comfort of their computers or tablets. The Griffith Observatory will begin broadcasting the eclipse live at 9:45 p.m. Pacific time. The observatory will also be open late for the eclipse between 7 p.m. Monday and 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Officials said to expect large crowds, heavy traffic and long walks from parking spots. The eclipse begins to end at 1:24 a.m., when the first bit of white moon returns and completely outshines the blood moon by 2:33 a.m.

Low temperatures Monday night will dip into the 50s, with winds of about 15 mph in the Los Angeles Basin.

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ron.lin@latimes.com
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