Weather permitting, skywatchers will be treated to the sight of a special full moon on April 14-15. There will be a full moon, and a total lunar eclipse. This reddish moon is sometimes called a blood moon.
What omen could this blood moon be? Tax day aside, the name sounds ominous, a portent of bloodshed and doom.
But, here’s the science. A lunar eclipse can only occur during a full moon, when the moon is directly opposite the sun in our sky. A reddish colored moon is caused by the umbral shadow of the Earth falling across the moon, and light scattering in the Earth’s atmosphere.
According to EarthSky—
Most of the time, however, the full moon eludes the Earth’s shadow by swinging to the north of it, or south of it. For instance, the March 2014 full moon swung south of the Earth’s shadow. Next month – in May 2014 – the full moon will swing north of the Earth’s shadow.
The moon’s orbital plane is actually inclined at 5o to the ecliptic – Earth’s orbital plane. However, the moon’s orbit intersects the ecliptic at two points called nodes. It’s an ascending node where it crosses the Earth’s orbital plane going from south to north, and a descending node where it crosses the Earth’s orbital plane, going from north to south.
The lunar eclipse of April 14-15 will be visible in North America. Weather permitting, we should be able to watch it here.
Here (from EarthSky) are the viewing times for the Chicago area- Central Daylight Time (April 15, 2014)
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 12:58 a.m. CDT on April 15
Total eclipse begins: 2:07 a.m. CDT
Greatest eclipse: 2:46 a.m. CDT
Total eclipse ends: 3:25 a.m. CDT
Partial eclipse ends: 4:33 a.m. CDT
This spectacular natural event would be worth staying up late (or getting up early) to experience. The weather forecast is not very promising, however. Current prediction is for light rain, blustery winds and low temps in the 30’s.
But, there may be breaks in the clouds for moon viewing!
NASA will also be livestreaming the eclipse. You can watch it here.
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