During totality, the constellations of the Northern Hemisphere’s spring surround the Moon. Magnitude 1.0 Spica in the constellation Virgo the Maiden is the nearest bright star. At mid-totality, it lies just 1.5° west-southwest of the eclipsed Moon. Spica’s vivid blue color will contrast nicely with the crimson Moon — especially through binoculars. Regarding other bright stars, Arcturus in the constellation Boötes stands 32° to the Moon’s north-northeast, and Antares in Scorpius lies 45° to the east-southeast.
Mars will dazzle 9.4° northwest of the Moon. On eclipse morning, the Red Planet lies relatively close to Earth and shines at magnitude –1.4, as brightly as it will until 2016. It’s also as large as it will be until then, so if you have a telescope set up for the eclipse, you’ll have plenty of time to steal a glance at Mars, even during totality.
Astronomy Senior Editor and veteran eclipse watcher Richard Talcott notes how safe this event is to watch. “A lunar eclipse poses no danger whatsoever to your eyes,” he says. “All you’re looking at is the Moon passing through a big shadow. Not only do you not need any filters, but you also can feel free to magnify the sight by using binoculars or a telescope.”
So, invite your family and friends, host an eclipse viewing party, and revel in some cool, easy-to-understand science. Lots of astronomy clubs and science centers will be doing the same. Observing this sky event takes little effort. You can watch the whole thing or just part of it. You can use a telescope, binoculars, or just your eyes. You can view it from the darkest site on Earth or from the heart of a city. However you watch it, have fun.
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