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MIAMI－Many parts of the globe caught a glimpse on 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 celestial show is the result of the Sun, Earth, and moon lining up perfectly for a lunar eclipse just as the moon is near its closest orbit point to Earth, making it appear "super" large.
It is the second full moon within the same month, a phenomenon called a "blue" moon which has nothing to due with its color.
The "blood" in the name comes from the reddish brown color the moon takes on when Earth enters between it and the Sun, cutting off the light rays that usually brighten the lunar surface.
In Beijing, about 800 skywatchers gathered at the Beijing Planetarium at dusk to witness the "super blood blue moon"－a phenomenon not seen for 152 years.
Clear skies were forecast for the Chinese capital, among a number of locations in the country and on the Pacific Rim that will witness a total lunar eclipse.
Further south, the Hong Kong Space Museum had organized a "Night of Total Lunar Eclipse", though skywatchers may be disappointed due to cloudy weather.
Depending on cloud cover, the spectacle was first visible in the pre-dawn skies of the western United States, when the setting moon entered the path of eclipse.
"Weather permitting, the (US) West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii will have a spectacular view of totality from start to finish," predicted NASA moon expert Gordon Johnston, advising amateur astronomers to "set your alarm early and go out and take a look".
Totality is when the moon is completely shadow-covered.
The extreme east of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Russia, Australia and New Zealand enjoyed the spectacle on Wednesday night, as the moon rose there.
The last "super blue blood moon" occurred on Dec 30, 1982, when it was seen in Europe, Africa and western Asia. For North America, the last time was in 1866.
This time around, viewing will be a challenge for those on the US East Coast. The eclipse began just as the moon is setting in the west and the Sun is rising in the east.
Moon-watching parties for the one-hour-16-minute eclipse were advertised up and down the US West Coast. But people outside the path of totality, or whose view is obstructed by cloudy weather, needed to follow the event live via NASA.gov.
If you miss this one, the next blue moon total lunar eclipse will happen on Dec 31, 2028, though it won"t be quite as large since the moon will not be at its closest point to Earth.
Another will happen on Jan 31, 2037, a total of 17 hours before perigee.
"The red color during a lunar eclipse is very distinctive and it"s a rare treat to be able to see a blood red moon," said Brian Rachford, associate professor of physics at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
"One of the great things about a lunar eclipse is you also don"t need any special equipment to see it. Anyone can go outside and look at the moon."
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