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The longest lunar eclipse in nearly 600 years happens early Friday morning

NOEL KING, HOST:

If you are out very early Friday morning, look up. You might see the longest partial lunar eclipse in almost 600 years.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

For 3 1/2 glorious hours, the Earth will slide between the sun and the moon. Our planet will partially block the sunlight hitting the moon, which will turn a spectacular orangish reddish sort of color.

DIANA HANNIKAINEN: There are so many hues of red in that color, it's very difficult to pinpoint a single shade.

KING: That's Dr. Diana Hannikainen. She's the observing editor for Sky and Telescope Magazine, and she says the color is the result of Earth's atmosphere refracting, or bending, the sun's rays.

HANNIKAINEN: The shorter wavelengths, the blues and the greens, they get scattered in Earth's atmosphere and don't pass through. But the longer wavelengths, the reds and the orange, do pass through.

MARTINEZ: And unlike a solar eclipse, you don't need to wear any special protective glasses to safely enjoy the sight for this event.

HANNIKAINEN: The unaided eye is an absolutely perfect way to witness this eclipse and any lunar eclipse.

KING: Dr. Hannikainen says it's a good idea to check the weather where you are and hope for clear skies. Also, get comfortable. This is a long one. But her most important advice...

HANNIKAINEN: Any time there's a celestial event like this, the opportunity to see astronomy happening in front of your very own eyes, get out there and enjoy it. Experience it with family if you can, but just go out and enjoy watching the solar system in action.

MARTINEZ: Ah, the cosmic dance continues. Now, in most of North America, you can see the eclipse starting around 2 a.m. Eastern on Friday. In Alaska and Hawaii, it'll begin before midnight tonight, so go get yourself an eyeful. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.