You’ll want to let the kids stay up late or wake them up for the upcoming April 14-15, 2014 lunar eclipse. This eclipse is special because this will be the first in a four-total eclipse cycle called a tetrad. The other eclipses in this cycle are approximately six months apart over the next year and a half – October 8, 2014, April 4, 2015, and September 28th, 2015.
Along with the total eclipse on April 14-15, look for the red planet, Mars. Mars will be brilliant and close to the moon throughout the eclipse. This will be the closest Mars will be to the earth all year.
What is a lunar eclipse?
A lunar eclipse happens when the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow. The result is a gradual darkening of part or nearly all the of the moon, making a partial or full eclipse, respectively.
This gradual darkening of the moon is a result of the moon moving through the 2 parts of the Earth’s shadow. The “prenumbra” is the lighter part of the shadow. The effect of this shadow is barely seen in an eclipse. The “umbra” is the dark part of the shadow. This will almost totally block the light of the sun from shining on the moon.
Three Types of Lunar Eclipses
Lunar eclipses can be seen in three types.
Prenumbral – These occur when the moon passes through just the Earth’s prenumbral shadow. These eclipses are very subtle. The change to the view of the moon is hard to see.
Partial – These happen when part of the moon passes through the Earth’s umbral shadow. Partial eclipses are easy to see because of the dark umbral shadow cast on the moon.
Total – These happen when the entire Moon passes through Earth’s umbral shadow. Total eclipses are brilliant to behold. Almost the entire moon is covered by the umbral shadow except for a ring of light around the moon that is often bright red or orange. The color of the ring is caused by dust in the Earth’s atmosphere bending the light that strikes the moon.
How To View A Lunar Eclipse?
To find the date and times of upcoming lunar eclipses, go to this handy eclipse calculator which works by city. The April 14th eclipse will start at 11:55 pm on April 14th and end at 5:36 am on April 15th. I don’t think I’ll be watching the entire time, but I will spend some of the peak time viewing.
The eclipse will be easily visible to the naked eye. Of course, you can always use binoculars or telescopes to get a better view. You might be able to see the moon through your windows or you might need to go outside. Just remember, lunar eclipses are long processes. If you miss a few minutes trying to find the right viewing area and method, you won’t miss much
To learn more….Visit NASA’s lunar eclipse page.