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Wednesday's lunar eclipse and blood moon, in photos

The lunar eclipse — nicknamed a "blood moon" — as seen from Tokyo, Japan.
The lunar eclipse — nicknamed a "blood moon" — as seen from Tokyo, Japan.
(Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

Early Wednesday morning — starting at 5:15 am Eastern time — there was a total eclipse of the moon, often called a "blood moon."

After slowly shrinking to a sliver (because Earth blocked most sunlight from hitting it), the moon glowed bright red, due to the fact that the small amount of light reaching it was first filtered through the Earth's atmosphere.

Given the early hour — which was even earlier for people in other time zones — most of us probably didn't make it up for the blood moon. If you didn't get a chance to see it, here's what it looked like, stage-by-stage.

The partial eclipse

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The early stages of the partial eclipse, as photographed from Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

At the start, as the moon passed into the Earth's penumbra — the outer part of its shadow — sunlight began hitting only a fraction of the moon's surface. This caused a portion of it to become invisible, with the darkened area slowly growing over the next hour or so until it covered the moon's full surface.

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(Zulema)

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The latter stages of the partial eclipse, also photographed from Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The total eclipse

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The total eclipse, photographed from Colorado. (John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Eventually, once the moon moved into the Earth's umbra — the core part of its shadow — the only sunlight reaching it had to first travel through the Earth's atmosphere. Some of the light reflected off nitrogen and oxygen molecules, and was scattered out into space.

The light most likely to be filtered out was light with shorter wavelengths — blues and greens — leaving mostly red light, with the longest wavelength, to make it through. This caused the moon to glow an eerie red during the total eclipse stage — and is why it's nicknamed a "blood moon."

Because of sunrise, for many viewers on the East Coast, the total eclipse was only visible for a short time, until the sky grew too bright to see it.

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The brightening sky in Washington, DC, makes the eclipse hard to see. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

For residents of the Western part of the country — as well as the Pacific and East Asia —the total eclipse and blood moon could be seen for nearly an hour before it subsided, and the moon left the Earth's umbra.

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The eclipse photographed next to a ferris wheel in Tokyo, Japan. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

The second partial eclipse

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The second partial eclipse, as seen from Tokyo. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

Residents of these areas could also watch the second partial eclipse, as the Earth gradually moved out of the way of sunlight hitting the moon.

This looked like the first partial eclipse, in reverse. At the start, the moon lost its red glow. Then, a tiny sliver of the moon glowed its usual white, with the brightened portion gradually growing over the course of an hour or so until it covered the moon's entire surface.

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The second partial eclipse, as seen from Tokyo. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

Read more: Here's why lunar eclipses happen — and why they make the moon glow red

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