Astronomy: April’s Total Lunar Eclipse

It's very rare to see the Moon be an almost uniform, red color; this only happens when the Moon passes through the dead center of the Earth's umbral shadow!

It’s very rare to see the Moon be an almost uniform, red color; this only happens when the Moon passes through the dead center of the Earth’s umbral shadow!

Early Saturday morning the Earth will pass between the moon and the sun in the first total lunar eclipse of this year (the second will take place on September 28).

Viewers across North American, including all of the US, will have front row seats for the event.

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Observers in Alaska and Hawaii will see the total lunar eclipse from start to finish, while viewers on east coast will see only part of the moon disappear beneath Earth’s shadow. That’s because the moon will set before the moment of totality — when the sun, Earth, and moon are exactly aligned and Earth’s shadow completely eclipses the moon, turning it that iconic blood-red color.

If you’re on the US mainland, the best place to be is California where observers will see totality at around 5:00 am, but the event will begin much earlier, at about 3 am. For information about exactly when the eclipse begins in your area and the time of totality, check out timeanddate.com’s handy “eclipse calculator”.

For New York residents, the show will begin at 5:01 am ET and continue until the moon sets beyond the horizon at 6:46 am ET. Check out the map below for information on how much of the eclipse you can see depending on where you’re at in the world:

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The moon takes on a deep-red color during a lunar eclipse because of the Earth’s atmosphere, which only lets longer wavelengths of visible light through. Red is the longest wavelength our eyes can detect.

If you were on the moon during a lunar eclipse, Earth would have a red ring around it as it passed between you and the sun. This red glow projects onto the moon, giving it its red hue during a total eclipse.

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Not only is this lunar eclipse the first one of 2015, it’s also the shortest one of the 21st Century!

While the whole event will last a little over 5 hours, the most spectacular moment — totality — will only last 4 minutes and 43 seconds. So, if you want to glimpse that eerie moment of the Blood Moon, make sure you know exactly when totality takes place in your part of the world so you don’t miss it.

And it’s not too long of a wait for the longest total lunar eclipse of the century where the moment of totality will last an incredible 1 hours and 42 minutes.

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If your skies are cloudy or you’re in a part of the world that won’t see the moment of totality, you can still catch the whole show online. The live online observatory, Slooh, will broadcast the event live starting at 6 am ET (3 am PT). Astronomers will be talking about the eclipse during the broadcast and you can ask them questions on Twitter by including #BreakfastEclipse in your tweet.

On a personal note, this lunar eclipse will occur on my birthday, which is an added treat for an amateur astronomy like me.  It’s the perfect birthday present!

Enjoy & happy viewing!

On the Web:  See the Lunar Eclipse Live via Slooh!

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