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Total lunar eclipse to be visible in United States

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) may find the coming lunar eclipse a tad too chilly. (Dana Berry/NASA via Associated Press)

North and South America, get ready for the first eclipse of the year — in color.

Tuesday morning, the moon will be eclipsed by Earth’s shadow. This total lunar eclipse will be visible across the Western Hemisphere. The total phase will last 78 minutes, beginning at 3:06 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) and ending at 4:24 a.m.

Even though the moon is in the Earth’s shadow, it should appear a bit colorful, some shade of red or orange. That’s from light around the edges of the Earth — essentially sunrises and sunsets — splashing on the lunar surface and faintly lighting up the moon, said Alan MacRobert, senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine.

On April 29, the Southern Hemisphere will be treated to a rare type of solar eclipse. In all, four eclipses will occur this year, two lunar and two solar.

Tuesday’s lunar eclipse may damage a NASA spacecraft that has been circling the moon since fall. But no worries: It’s near the end of its mission.

The robotic orbiter LADEE (pronounced “laddie”) was never designed to endure a lengthy eclipse. Scientists don’t know if it will withstand the prolonged cold of the hours-long eclipse.

Even if it freezes up, LADEE will crash into the far side of the moon the following week, as planned, after successfully completing its science mission. In an online contest, NASA is asking the public to guess the impact time. Scientists expect LADEE’s doomsday to occur on or before April 21.

LADEE stands for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. The spacecraft completed the science-collecting portion of its mission at the beginning of March.

— Associated Press

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