Skywatchers in North America will see moon turn red in rare eclipse

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Skywatchers across western North America set their alarms to awaken before dawn on Wednesday to see a rare type of lunar eclipse called a "Super Blue Blood Moon," with hundreds of expected to view the phenomenon from a Los Angeles mountaintop.

As is the case with all total lunar eclipses, the Earth will cast a darkened red-tinted shadow across the face of its natural satellite, hence the term “blood moon,” but two other factors are combining to make Wednesday's spectacle particularly unusual.

The eclipse will unfold during the rare occasion of a second full moon in a single month, otherwise known as a “blue moon,” and during a point in the moon’s orbit at which it has reached its closest position to Earth, thus making it appear larger and brighter in the sky than normal, as a “super moon.”

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TOPSHOT - A person poses for a photo as the moon rises over Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California, on January 30, 2018. Many parts of the globe may catch a glimpse on january 31 of a giant crimson moon, thanks to a rare lunar trifecta that combines a blue moon, a super moon and a total eclipse. The spectacle, which NASA has coined a 'super blue blood moon.' / AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
A full moon is seen behind the business tower Lakhta Centre, which is under construction in St. Petersburg, Russia January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A blue moon rises over Balboa Park's California Tower in San Diego, California, U.S., January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The moon sets behind the city of Jerusalem early on January 31, 2018. A cosmic event not seen in 36 years -- a rare 'super blood blue moon' -- may be glimpsed today in parts of western North America, Asia, the Middle East, Russia and Australia. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Jan 30, 2018; Senoia, GA, USA; Delta flight 1789 a MD-90 aircraft from Atlanta to Jacksonville transits across the super moon over the evening sky in Georgia. A rare celestial phenomenon when a super moon, blue moon and total lunar eclipse will take place at the same time in the early morning hours of Jan 31st. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JANUARY 31: Full moon is seen over Galata Tower in Istanbul, Turkey on January 31, 2018. (Photo by Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The full moon rises from Legazpi City, Albay province, south of Manila on January 31, 2018. Skywatchers were hoping for a rare lunar eclipse that combines three unusual events -- a blue moon, a super moon and a total eclipse -- which was to make for a large crimson moon viewable in many corners of the globe. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
SAKHALIN REGION, RUSSIA - JANUARY 31, 2018: A red supermoon rises over hills near the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East. Sergei Krasnoukhov/TASS (Photo by Sergei Krasnoukhov\TASS via Getty Images)
YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, RUSSIA - JANUARY 31, 2018: A supermoon rises over trees in the town of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East. Sergei Krasnoukhov/TASS (Photo by Sergei Krasnoukhov\TASS via Getty Images)
NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 31: Crowds gather on the Marine Parade Beach to watch the moon rise on January 31, 2018 in Napier, New Zealand. A Super Blue Blood Moon is the result of three lunar phenomena happening all at once: not only it it the second full moon in January, but the moon will also be close to its nearest point to Earth on its orbit, and be totally eclipsed by the Earth's shadow. The last time these events coincided was in 1866, 152 years ago. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JANUARY 31: Full moon is seen over Galata Tower in Istanbul, Turkey on January 31, 2018. (Photo by Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The moon sets behind the city of Jerusalem early on January 31, 2018. A cosmic event not seen in 36 years -- a rare 'super blood blue moon' -- may be glimpsed today in parts of western North America, Asia, the Middle East, Russia and Australia. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
SAKHALIN REGION, RUSSIA - JANUARY 31, 2018: A red supermoon rises over hills near the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East. Sergei Krasnoukhov/TASS (Photo by Sergei Krasnoukhov\TASS via Getty Images)
AMBOY, CA - JANUARY 30: The Moon rises over the Mojave Desert before becoming a so-called 'super blue blood moon' when it becomes totally eclipsed before dawn, on January 30, 2018 near Amboy, California. The 'super blue blood moon' is a rare 'lunar trifecta' event in which the Moon is at its closest to the Earth, appearing about 14 percent brighter than usual, and is simultaneously a 'blue moon', the second full moon in the same month, as well as a total lunar eclipse or 'blood moon'. Such a lunar event that hasn't been seen since 1866. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
AMBOY, CA - JANUARY 30: The Moon rises over the Mojave Desert before becoming a so-called 'super blue blood moon' when it becomes totally eclipsed before dawn, on January 30, 2018 near Amboy, California. The 'super blue blood moon' is a rare 'lunar trifecta' event in which the Moon is at its closest to the Earth, appearing about 14 percent brighter than usual, and is simultaneously a 'blue moon', the second full moon in the same month, as well as a total lunar eclipse or 'blood moon'. Such a lunar event that hasn't been seen since 1866. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JANUARY 31: Full moon is seen over Galata Tower in Istanbul, Turkey on January 31, 2018. (Photo by Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
View of a full moon rising at dusk, in Cali, Colombia on January 30, 2018. Many parts of the globe may catch a glimpse Wednesday of a giant crimson moon, thanks to a rare lunar trifecta that combines a blue moon, a super moon and a total eclipse. The spectacle, which NASA has coined a 'super blue blood moon,' will grace the pre-dawn skies in the western United States, as the moon crosses into the shadow of the Earth and turns blood red. / AFP PHOTO / Luis ROBAYO (Photo credit should read LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)
A super moon is seen near rooftop lights in Washington, DC on January 30, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
VAN, TURKEY - JANUARY 29: A halo is seen around a full moon during nightfall in Van, Turkey on January 29, 2018. (Photo by Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JANUARY 30: A bird flies as Full moon rises over Istanbul, Turkey on January 30, 2018. (Photo by Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JANUARY 31: Full moon is seen over Galata Tower as a boat passes through a strait in Istanbul, Turkey on January 31, 2018. (Photo by Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Super moon rise in the sky of Kolkata,India on January 30, 2018. (Photo by Debajyoti Chakraborty/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JANUARY 31, 2018: A red supermoon over the tower of the Lakhta Center, which is under construction in Primorsky District of St Petersburg. Peter Kovalev/TASS (Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images)
YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, RUSSIA - JANUARY 31, 2018: A supermoon rises over trees in the town of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East. Sergei Krasnoukhov/TASS (Photo by Sergei Krasnoukhov\TASS via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JANUARY 30: A bird flies as Full moon rises over Istanbul, Turkey on January 30, 2018. (Photo by Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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The reddish appearance of the lunar surface - the moon's image does not vanish entirely during the eclipse - is due to rays of sunlight passing through Earth's atmosphere as the moon falls into our planet's shadow.

The last time all three conditions occurred for a single lunar eclipse visible from North America was in 1866, according to the meteorological forecaster AccuWeather.

In Los Angeles, a crowd ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 people was expected to make a pilgrimage in the dark to the Griffith Observatory on Mount Hollywood, where extra telescopes will be set up for them to see the celestial show, Griffith Observatory officials said.

"Griffith Observatory is all about having an eyeball to the sky, and so it's one thing to learn about this event in a book, but it's another to see it for yourself," observatory director Ed Krupp said in a phone interview.

Krupp, in an act he has performed during other eclipses, plans to dress up like a wizard and bang pots and pans outside the observatory while the crowd watches.

His presentation pays whimsical homage to myths about eclipses dating back to ancient Babylon, when people believed they had to frighten away a mysterious creature swallowing the moon, Krupp said.

In western North America, it will be easy to see the eclipse beginning at 3:48 a.m. Pacific Time, according to NASA. But the lunar show will be less noticeable in the Midwest and even more difficult to spot on the East Coast, where the moon is due to set before the eclipse is in full swing, according to NASA.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Michael Perry)

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REFILE - CORRECTING HOW PHOTO WAS TAKEN A composite image of 21 separate photographs taken with a single fixed camera shows the solar eclipse as it creates the effect of a diamond ring at totality as seen from Clingmans Dome, which at 6,643 feet (2,025m) is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, U.S. August 21, 2017. Location coordinates for this image are 35�33'24" N, 83�29'46" W. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Enthusiasts Tanner Person (R) and Josh Blink, both from Vacaville, California, watch a total solar eclipse while standing atop Carroll Rim Trail at Painted Hills, a unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, near Mitchell, Oregon, U.S. August 21, 2017. Location coordinates for this image is near 44�39'117'' N 120�6'042'' W. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A jet plane flies by the total solar eclipse in Guernsey, Wyoming U.S. August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A total solar eclipse occurs on August 21, 2017, at Mary's River Covered Bridge, in Chester, IL, USA. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The total solar eclipse Monday August 21, 2017 in Madras, Oregon. Emotional sky-gazers stood transfixed across North America Monday as the Sun vanished behind the Moon in a rare total eclipse that swept the continent coast-to-coast for the first time in nearly a century. / AFP PHOTO / ROB KERR (Photo credit should read ROB KERR/AFP/Getty Images)
ROXBURY, NJ - AUGUST 21: The Moon is seen passing in front of the Sun during a Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017 at Roxbury High School in Roxbury, NJ. A total solar eclipse swept across a narrow portion of the contiguous United States from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. A partial solar eclipse was visible across the entire North American continent along with parts of South America, Africa, and Europe. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
People watch the total solar eclipse in Guernsey, Wyoming U.S. August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Cheerleaders use solar viewing glasses before welcoming guests to the football stadium to watch the total solar eclipse at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, U.S., August 21, 2017. Location coordinates for this image are 37�42'25" N 89�13'10" W. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Guests watch the sun re-emerge after a total eclipse at the football stadium at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, U.S., August 21, 2017. Location coordinates for this image are 37�42'25" N 89�13'10" W. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
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