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Total lunar eclipse: Big crowds expected for ‘blood moon’

With just a few hours left before the the first total eclipse of 2014, the Griffith Observatory is bracing for big crowds tonight and is warning of possible traffic jams for the “blood moon.”

“We are expecting large crowds,” the observatory said in a statement. “Those attending should expect traffic congestion and long walks from parking.”

The observatory will be open to visitors, who can look up at the eclipse either from the building itself or from the grass and sidewalk areas. Experts will also provide presentations on the eclipse.

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 observatory.

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Look to the south for the moon, said Joe Sirard, an amateur astronomer who is also 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 couldn’t 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 the evening of Dec. 20, 2010, with the eclipse’s peak at 12:17 a.m. Dec. 21, according to the observatory.

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There will be other lunar eclipses soon, but the next two will peak at less convenient times in California: 3:54 a.m. Oct. 8 and 5 a.m. 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.”

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

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