Western Slope Skies - 4/11/14
April’s Total Lunar Eclipse
Late on the evening of April 14th and into the early morning hours of April 15th, skygazers throughout the America’s and much of the Pacific region will be treated to a total lunar eclipse. This eclipse will be the first of two for the year. By the time the sun, earth and moon line up it will have been 857 days or 28 months since we last saw our moon completely in the shadow of our planet.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and the Moon line up. First, the Moon will pass through our planet’s lighter outer shadow called the penumbra. Observers may not be able to detect any change in brightness during this phase. Next, the Moon passes through Earth’s darker inner shadow called the umbra. When only some of it passes through the umbra, we see a partial eclipse. Sometimes, the entire Moon passes through the umbra, creating a total lunar eclipse. That’s what’s happening on the 15th.
Just before midnight local time, the Moon first touches the umbral shadow, and the partial phase begins. For more than an hour you’ll see the dark part grow until totality begins at 1:07 a.m. Totality lasts 78 minutes. During totality, the faint moon will glow orange or red in refracted light of sunsets from around the Earth. After totality ends, the Moon will remain partially eclipsed until 3:33 a.m.
You will not need special equipment, filters or even a telescope to view this eclipse, just dress appropriately! Early spring nights can get quite cold, so don’t put away those winter coats just yet. An adjustable lounge chair or folding chair, some warm blankets and a warm beverage will be all that’s needed.