Total lunar eclipse to dazzle western states Saturday

Fri Dec 9, 2011 5:46pm EST

NASA undated handout image of the moon was photographed by the Expedition 28 crew aboard the International Space Station.  REUTERS/NASA/Handout

NASA undated handout image of the moon was photographed by the Expedition 28 crew aboard the International Space Station.

Credit: Reuters/NASA/Handout

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(Reuters) - Residents in the western United States will be able to see the last total lunar eclipse for nearly three years early on Saturday morning.

"A total lunar eclipse is where the full moon is immersed in the earth's shadow," said Larry Ciupik, an astronomer with the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

The eclipse will begin around 4:45 a.m. Pacific Time, with the best times to see it between 6:06 a.m. and 6:57 Pacific time.

"In order to see totality you have to be somewhere in the western states like Nevada and California," Ciupik said. For residents of Hawaii, the moon will be higher in the sky so the view could also be spectacular.

The eclipse can be seen very easily, though "quite often during a total lunar eclipse the moon disappears," Ciupik said. That's because of light pollution, dust in the air locally and dust in the air globally

This will be the second total lunar eclipse for the Americas this year. The next one will not occur until April 15, 2014.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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