Image: Partial lunar eclipse of June 26, 2010
Scott Kardel
This photo of the partial lunar eclipse of June 26, 2010 was taken by skywatcher Scott Kardel from near the Palomar Observatory in California as the moon appeared low on the Earth's horizon before sunrise.
updated 5/29/2012 8:30:46 PM ET 2012-05-30T00:30:46

The first lunar eclipse of the year will occur next week when the full moon passes behind Earth, casting a shadow over a large expanse of the lunar surface.

On June 4, a partial lunar eclipse will be visible to skywatchers in North America, South America, Australia, eastern regions of Asia and across the Pacific Ocean, weather permitting.

Lunar eclipses occur when the moon orbits behind Earth with respect to the sun, and the planet's shadow blocks light from the sun that would otherwise hit the moon. Since only a fraction of the moon will covered in shadow next week, astronomers call this type of eclipse a partial lunar eclipse.

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For skywatchers in the eastern United States, the eclipse begins before dawn as the moon is setting in the west. The moon will move behind the planet at roughly 6 a.m. EDT (3 a.m. PDT; 1000 GMT). About 37 percent of the moon's surface will be darkened at maximum eclipse, which will take place at approximately 7:04 a.m. EDT (4:04 a.m. PDT; 1104 GMT), according to NASA astronomers.

Observers in the eastern United States will be particularly well-placed to see what is known as the "moon illusion," which is a curious spectacle not fully understood by scientists. In this optical illusion, a low-hanging moon appears larger than normal when it beams through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. [ Best Telescopes for Beginners ]

In reality, low moons are no wider or larger than any other moon, but the human brain strangely sees it that way. The illusion is part of the mind's attempt to make sense of the moon in relation to earthly objects on the horizon.

According to NASA, skywatchers east of Mississippi will be treated to an extra large eclipsed moon, which will appear low in the west at daybreak.

The moon on June 4 will also be a full one. Native American folklore dictates that this full moon is called the Strawberry Moon, because it coincides with the season for harvesting strawberries.

Next week's lunar eclipse is the second in an impressive trio of celestial events.

A spectacular annular solar eclipse, when the moon passed between Earth and the sun to create a so-called "ring of fire" in the sky, wowed skywatchers on May 20. On June 4, the Earth, moon and sun will reverse their order, so that the moon is eclipsed rather than the sun.

To cap off the stunning lineup of sky shows, the transit of Venus will occur on June 5, as Venus moves directly between the Earth and the sun in a rare spectacle that will not be visible again until 2117.

Editor's note: If you snap a great photo of the partial lunar eclipse and would like it to be considered for use in a story or gallery, please send images and comments to SPACE.com managing editor Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com.

Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter@Spacedotcomand on Facebook.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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