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Big Fat Red Lunar Eclipse a Treat for West Coast Early Risers

A total lunar eclipse will be visible on the West Coast of the United States as well as in western Canada, on December 10, 2011, the last lunar eclipse until 2014.
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A month ago it was an asteroid shooting between the earth and the moon. Now the earth will come between the moon and the sun. The last lunar eclipse of 2011—and the last one until 2014, actually, according to NASA—is happening early Saturday morning December 10 and will be fully visible in the western U.S. and Canada.

The full eclipse can be seen in East Asia, Australia, and the far western portion of North America encompassing Alaska and the Canadian Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories, according to NASA. The 3.5-hour show begins at 4:45 a.m. Pacific Time.

Face west just before dawn for the full effect—the moon will look giant and glow blood-orange-red because of quirks in the earth's atmosphere as our planet moves between its satellite and the sun.

Indigenous art is rife with allusions to eclipses. In Mexico especially the eclipse theme shows up time and time again, and in a cacophony of color.

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Eclipses both lunar and solar have of course factored greatly into Native storytelling and legend over the millennia. According to the website, the Hupa Indians of northern California believe that:

"The Moon is a man who has 20 wives and a house full of pets consisting of mountain lions, bears and snakes. To feed his pets, the man goes out to hunt. After the hunt he carries all the game back to his house for his pets, but they are not satisfied with what he has brought them. In anger, the pets attack the man, who begins to bleed. This is represented by the Moon turning a reddish color during a lunar eclipse. One of the Moon's wives is Frog, and when she sees the predicament her husband is in, she rushes to help him. Frog beats away the pets. Then she and the other wives collect up the Moon's blood and he can then recover."

And according to the same site, California's Serrano Indians believe that an eclipse of either sun or moon is the spirits of the dead trying to eat one of the two. Medicine men conduct ceremonies to appease the spirits while bystanders shout to scare the spirits away, Starryskies says. Neither the San Manuel Band of Serrano Indians' website nor that of the Hoopa Valley Tribe mentions any upcoming eclipse-related festivities this time around.

Below, see directly from NASA why the moon will look red, how long the eclipse will last and what the best viewing times and places are. This interactive website will help you get the most out of your view. And when it's time, those of you who can't be there in person can watch it live-streamed at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles from 5:00 to 6:30 a.m.