Online Remote Telescope Services

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 2014 Lunar Eclipse

A total lunar eclipse will take place on April 15, 2014. It will be the first of two total lunar eclipses in 2014, and the first of four total lunar eclipses this year. the lunar eclipse will be visible in the Pacific Ocean region, including Australia, as well as North and South America. The moon will pass south of the center of the Earth's shadow. As a result, the northern part of the moon will be darker than the southern part.

Simulation of the moon passing through Earth's shadow.
Simulation of the moon passing through Earth's shadow.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes within Earth's umbra (shadow). As the eclipse begins, the Earth's shadow first darkens the moon slightly. Then, the shadow begins to "cover" part of the moon, turning it a dark red-brown color. The moon appears to be reddish due to the refraction of light through the Earth's atmosphere. This is the same effect that causes sunsets to appear red.

Oftentimes, the full moon appears coppery red during a total lunar eclipse because the dispersed light from all the Earth’s sunrises and sunsets falls on the face of the moon. Thus the term Blood Moon can be and is applied to any and all total lunar eclipses.

The simulation above displays the approximate appearance of the moon passing through the earth's shadow. The moon's brightness is exaggerated within the umbral shadow. The northern portion of the moon will be closest to the center of the shadow, making it the darkest and most red in appearance.

On April 15, 2014, the moon will pass through the southern part of the Earth's umbral shadow. It will be visible over most of the Western Hemisphere including east Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Ocean, and North and South America. In the western Pacific, the first half of the eclipse will occur before the moonrise. In Europe and Africa, the eclipse will begin just before the moonset. In North America, Mars will arguably be the most prominent object in the sky other than the moon, appearing 9.5° northwest of the moon. The bright star Spica will be 2° to the west, while Arcturus will be 32° north. Saturn will be 26° east and Antares 44° southeast.

The moon will enter Earth's penumbral shadow at 4:54 UTC and the umbral shadow at 5:58. Totality will last for 1 hour 18 minutes, from 7:07 to 8:25. The moment of greatest eclipse will occur at 7:47. At that point, the Moon's zenith will be approximately 1,900 miles southwest of the Galapagos Islands. The moon will leave the umbral shadow at 9:33 and the penumbral shadow at 10:38.

The umbral magnitude will peak at 1.2907. At that moment, the northern part of the moon will pass 1.7 arc-minutes south of the center of Earth's shadow, while the southern part will be 40.0 arc-minutes from the center. Thus, the northern part of the moon will be noticeably darker. The moon's appearance will change significantly throughout the eclipse as the depth of the shadow changes.

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