Blood moon — the sequel

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By Ed Payne and Ben Brumfield, CNN

Sequels are usually a disappointment. But not this time, not with this heavenly body.

If you live anywhere in the United States, you have a front-row seat for the show -- a lunar eclipse that has turned the moon a burnt reddish orange. For folks on the East Coast, sunrise will cut viewing of the eclipse short.

Because of the special light show, it's called a blood moon and it's the second one of the year.

The full eclipse started at 6:25 a.m. ET and lasts until 7:24 a.m. ET.

Because it happens right after the perigee -- that's when the moon is closest in its orbit to Earth -- this blood moon will be nearly the size of a super moon -- appearing more than 5% larger than the previous blood moon in April.

While we're talking sequels, this series is only halfway through.

This is the second blood moon in a sequence of four.

Hollywood would dub it a quadrilogy, but scientists call it a tetrad.

This series is occurring in roughly six-month intervals. April 4, 2015, is the next one, and last will appear on September 28, 2015.

NASA will guide the curious through the eclipse in a live chat on its website.

A rare treat

With that frequency, you could be misled into thinking that blood moons are fairly common. Guess again.

In the 21st century, there will be many tetrads, but look back a few centuries, and you'll find the opposite phenomenon, NASA says.

Before the dawn of the 20th century, there was a 300-year period when there were none, says NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak. Zero.

That would mean that neither Sir Isaac Newton, Mozart, Queen Anne, George Washington, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln nor their contemporaries ever had a chance to see such a sequence.

There are about two lunar eclipses per year, NASA says.

Some of them are very subtle. They're barely visible and pretty much go unnoticed.

Other eclipses just cast a partial shadow on the moon but won't give you that blood moon color that only total eclipses do. And they come around, on average, less than once a year.

The brilliant hues of a blood moon come from the edges of the sun peeking around the periphery of the Earth, catching the atmosphere. It's essentially a global sunset shining on the moon, which has to be in just the right position to catch those rays.

Lunar eclipses -- whatever the variety -- occur in random order, NASA says. Getting four total eclipses in a row, especially blood moons, is like drawing a rare lunar poker hand of four of a kind.

"The most unique thing about the 2014-2015 tetrad is that all of them are visible for all or parts of the U.S.A.," said NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak.

Not all will be so lucky. The people of Europe, Africa and the Middle East will not be able to see this blood moon.

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