April 15th is usually known for one reason only: Tax Day. However, this year citizens of North and South America are in for something a little more special. On the cosmic schedule this April are a full lunar eclipse and a Mars opposition. So how does all that work exactly? And what does it mean?
To begin with, a full lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is situated directly between the sun and the moon. Hence, the Earth casts its shadow straight on the surface of the usually bright full moon. On April 15th commencing at 1:58am the moon will be shifting into the Earth’s Umbra. Umbra is a word derived from Latin meaning “shade” or “shadow.” At this point the moon will only begin to be covered by the shadow as it assumes a reddish hue. From here on in the moon is in the process of a complete eclipse. The second phase of the eclipse will begin at around 3:07am when the moon will be exactly within the Earth’s Umbra and covered completed. This phase of the eclipse lasts over an hour until 4:25am. Then the third phase begins as the moon exists the Umbra.
The eclipse will be completely over by 5:33am. Lunar eclipses can be seen with the naked eye, binoculars, telescopes and require no special equipment as the solar eclipse does. The lunar eclipse and Mars opposition comprise a valuable and dear experience to star gazers in the Western hemisphere. However, astrologers will not be the only ones appreciate the beauty which these events offer.
What is a Mars opposition? Well, as the planets in the solar system revolve in elliptical patterns they are sometimes closer and further away from other planets. In this case, Mars is closer to Earth than it has been since 2007. Many still remember back in 2003 when Mars was extremely bright and visible to the naked eye for weeks. This event is similar except that the proximity of Mars is smaller at this time. Mars will be a mere 50 million miles away. On April 8th, as the sun is setting in the west, gazers should look directly to the east and there will discover a bright red dot on the celestial fabric. It is said that Mars will appear brighter even than the Sirius- that bright star within Canis Major which philosophers often look up to when deep in thought outside at night.
Mars will appear bright throughout the spring and summer though April 8th is the ideal night to catch a glimpse. Throughout the lunar eclipse it will also be brightly visible along with Saturn, Venus and Jupiter. It seems that the sky will be smiling down for tax day.
Many cultures both ancient and recent have looked up into the sky and deciphered these signs written in the stars. The Moon stands for the feminine, reflective side of people while the Sun is the masculine and active. Mars is the planet not only of war but of motivation and unstoppable force. Jupiter stands for justice, glory and honor, Venus for love and attraction and Saturn is the taskmaster who commands the attention of these aspects and puts them into action. For those who rely on the stars to plan certain events, this may be a very special night to commence.
With a lunar eclipse and Mars opposition, April is turning out to be a very powerful month. Be sure to make the most of it. With Mars in such a strong position, remember to wait for the right moment to make a move. With the lunar eclipse, remember to take time to reflect on thoughts and emotions. All in all, humanity is made of the stars and planets. Perhaps on April 15th the stars will be looking back down at Earth instead of the other way around.
Commentary by Atar Kishon