People gazing at the night sky from North and South America to Europe and western Africa will be able to see a total lunar eclipse — if the local weather cooperates.
For more than an hour, the moon will be covered entirely by the Earth's shadow.
The eclipse can be seen late Wednesday in North and South America and before dawn Thursday in Europe and western Africa.
With the Earth passing directly between the sun and the moon, the only light hitting the full moon will be from the home planet's sunrises and sunsets, thus giving the lunar eclipse orange and red hues.
Aside from their entertainment value, total lunar eclipses give scientists a chance to assess the quality of Earth's atmosphere. Ash from volcanic eruptions, for example, can make an eclipsed moon look much darker. The recent eruptions of Mount St. Helens in Washington have consisted of far more steam than ash, and therefore the moon should appear bright and coppery red on Wednesday night, NASA said.
The next total eclipse of the moon will not be until March 2007.