I wanted to let you all know about a really cool event coming up in a couple weeks...and I'm giving you that much time to prepare, because, well...you might need it.
It's been a long, long time since we had a really awesome lunar eclipse event here at the museum. I love our "Total Luna-See" parties...we have a great time, see the Moon turn an amazing color, and generally it's pretty much a party atmosphere all night long!
Sadly, we won't be doing that for the upcoming lunar eclipse. Why? Because the darn thing happens at 3AM! On a Tuesday morning!
|How we get lunar eclipses - the Earth must pass directly between the Sun and the Moon. Image by Fred Espenak. Courtesy NASA.|
Yep, that's right, on April 15th - the all-glorious Tax Day here in the U.S. - at the ungodly hour of about 2AM on the East Coast - the Full Moon will quietly begin sliding into the shadow of the Earth. Like most shadows, the Earth's shadow is not completely devoid of light - the atmosphere of the Earth scatters from red light from the sunrises and sunsets happening around the world at the time into the shadow, turning the Moon a beautiful reddish color. How reddish really depends on the state of the atmosphere. If the air is relatively clean and clear, the Moon will indeed appear an almost blackish-red. If there's a lot of dust or other pollutants in the air, a coppery or even orangey-red Moon could result.
One thing's for sure, if you want to see what color the Moon turns this time around...you'll need to be a very dedicated astronomy buff. The eclipse will peak at around 3AM By around 5AM, the event will be coming to an end. So it means spending a long night outside...on a weekday. Before work. Or school. Or whatever else an average Tuesday on which your tax forms are due might bring you.
Soooo...maybe this won't be the best lunar eclipse to get outside to try to see. That's okay...we've got three more chances coming up over the next year and a half.
The April 15th eclipse is the first of a tetrad - a group of four successive total lunar eclipses. Amazingly, all four will be at least somewhat visible in the United States! The next one in this series will be on October 8, 2014...and for the East Coast, will occur as the Moon is setting.
Maybe we'll have better luck in 2015.
Again, I say - this is NOT an April Fool's joke! But if you'd like one, check this out.
Until next time...