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A total eclipse of the moon will darken our natural satellite Wednesday morning (Jan. 31), and the Salt Lake Astronomical Society has tips for those wishing to view the event. It will be the only such eclipse visible in North America this year.

During a lunar eclipse, the moon moves through Earth’s shadow in space. Darkness falls across the Moon’s plains, valleys, rills, craters and mountains. At 3:51 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, the first part of the Earth’s outer shadow, the fainter penumbra, will start to encroach. At 4:48 a.m. the darker inner shadow, the umbra, begins its march across the Moon’s face, completely covering it by 5:51 a.m.

The deepest portion of the eclipse will be about 6:31 a.m., according to NASA. A ruddy, coppery or dark hue is likely to paint the moon, as it is colored by light reflected from Earth’s sometimes-smoky atmosphere. The moon then begins to emerge from the shadow, with totality ending at 7:07 a.m. The entire show is over at 9:08 a.m.

Not only is this the second full moon of January, a phenomenon irrationally nicknamed a “blue moon,” it is also a super moon, the name given when it is near its closest approach to Earth. A super moon is usually noticeably larger than the moon is at other times.

The U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., computes that Salt Lake City’s sunrise on Jan. 31 will occur at 7:38 a.m. and that the moon will set at 7:53 a.m. This means the total phase will be ending during the sky’s brightening at dawn. The later views won’t be as dramatic because of the brightness.

Dave Bernson, president of the astronomy club, recommends that anyone interested in watching the spectacle should go to a site with a low western horizon. Celestial bodies are usually best seem from areas not badly light-polluted.

For more information, call Joe Bauman, vice president of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, 801-913-3588, email josephmbauman@yahoo. com, or check out the club’s web site, SLAS.us.