This Sunday, May 15, if you step outside at night, you'll get to see something that is happening only twice this year -- a total lunar eclipse.

Late in the evening, the full moon will pass directly into Earth's shadow cast by the sun, illuminating the moon a vibrant and brilliant red.

You can expect this to begin around 9:30 pm on Sunday. Totality -- or the period when the moon is fully immersed in Earth's shadow -- will begin at about 10:30 pm and last around an hour and a half.

The eclipse will end just before 1:00 am on Monday morning.

Super Blood Moon And Total Lunar Eclipse Seen In Auckland
Phil Walter, Getty Images

Is a lunar eclipse safe to look at with your naked eyes?

The simple answer is yes.

Unlike a solar eclipse (when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun) it's safe to look at a lunar eclipse with your naked eyes since the sun is at your back.

To view it, simply step outside and look up at the transit. Or, use binoculars or a telescope to get a better view.

Why does the moon turn red during a lunar eclipse?

Picture the sun, Earth, and moon from left to right in a line. The sun is shining directly on the Earth, which then creates a shadow on the far side. That's where the moon passes during the eclipse.

Now pretend you're standing on the moon looking back at Earth. Our planet would be silhouetted in a red halo.

NASA describes this as all the sunrises and sunsets are happening around the globe at that time.

It's that red-orange light that's projected through Earth's atmosphere and onto the moon. And it's what gives the moon that warm red tone during the eclipse. It's also the origin of the term "blood moon."

By the way, the other total lunar eclipse this year is set to happen on November 7. And for a list of lunar eclipses for the next 10 years, click here for that list.

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