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WATCH: Shortest total lunar eclipse of the century happened Saturday morning

Posted at 7:34 AM, Apr 04, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. -- It did not last long, but the third blood moon in less than a year proved a treat for early risers in western North America. The moon slipped fully into Earth's shadow at 7:58 a.m., ET, which is 4:58 a.m. Pacific Time, in a full lunar eclipse that lasted nearly five minutes. NASA said that makes it the shortest full lunar eclipse of the century.

The event started at 6:16 a.m. ET (3:16 a.m. PT), when the moon began moving into Earth's shadow. People west of the Mississippi River had the best view, able to see the five-minute total eclipse before the moon dipped below the horizon.

"The lunar eclipse is looking good!" tweeted Ryan Hoke, a meteorologist for CNN affiliate WAVE in Louisville, Kentucky, showing a picture of a reddish partial moon in a blue dawn sky.

But people on the East Coast could not see the moments of the total eclipse, because the moon will have set below the horizon.

Parts of South America, India, China and Russia were also able to see at least parts of the eclipse, but it was not visible in Greenland, Iceland, Europe, Africa or the Middle East.

A lunar eclipse happens when the sun, Earth and moon form a straight line in space, with the Earth smack in the middle. The sun shines on the Earth and creates a shadow. As the moon moves deeper into that shadow, it appears to turn dark and may even appear to be a reddish color. Why red? Because Earth's atmosphere is filtering out most of the blue light. Some people have nicknamed the effect the "blood moon."

NASA says lunar eclipses typically happen at least twice a year, but this eclipse is the third in a series of four in a row, known as a "tetrad." The first was on April 15, 2014. The second was in September 2014, the next is Saturday and there will be one more, on September 28.

If you want to learn more about the eclipse, NASA astronomer Mitzi Adams will take questions on Twitter.