Stargazers and skywatchers all across the United States of America are going to want to remember April 15 as a prime day for sky activity- experts say that with favorable weather, a rare blood-red lunar eclipse is going to be visible and will occur in the night sky on the upcoming Wednesday.
When a lunar eclipse occurs, planet Earth sits directly in between both the sun and the moon, and blocks sunlight from reaching to the full moon. The first phase of the eclipse is expected to begin at 1:59 a.m. in the southern sky. It is expected to last a total of about 77 minutes long, with the event ending at around 4:25 a.m. EST.
The impending lunar eclipse is said to be the first of four “blood-red” lunar eclipses which will appear over the following year and a half. The odds of four blood moons appearing over such a short period of time so closely together is considered rare and is referred to by astronomy experts as a lunar tetrad. The other three eclipses are set to appear with one occurring later this year and the other two in 2015. The second eclipse will appear October 8, 2014. The next one will occur April 4, 2015, and the last one will show on September 28, 2015. The most recent tetrad appeared in 2004, and after this current tetrad set, the next ones will appear in the years 2032-33.
The blood-red color of the moon occurs when light from the sun that passes through the Earth’s atmosphere tints a red color, as usually viewed during every sunrise and every sunset. During a complete lunar eclipse, the red light shining through the Earth’s atmosphere touches the moon and bathes it within the glow, making it completely red. When it comes to the color of the moon that will show early morning April 15, astronomer and eclipse expert Fred Espenak said that the eclipse could actually appear in a variety of different colors.
“Colors may range from a bright orange to a deep blood-red,” Espenak said. “Right now, tetrads are actually becoming frequent, especially when looking at lunar eclipses and their patterns.” Espenak mentioned that this was due to the 21st century having nine occurrences of lunar tetrads. “Of course, tetrads were not always frequent throughout history,” he said. “As an example, there were no instances of lunar tetrads during the time period of 1600 all the way through 1900.”
In the past, lunar tetrads have been noted for the strange coincidences that occurred with their appearances, including the first occurrence that coincided with Italian navigator and explorer Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America. The expulsion of Jewish people from Spain also happened during the same time frame. The only time in history a lunar tetrad appeared with no significant events occurring during it, was 2004 in which nothing happened. This go around, the eclipses coincide with the Jewish holiday Passover.
Espenak said that the rare and unique thing about this tetrad is that all four blood-red lunar eclipses will occur and be visible for the majority of those who live in the United States.
By Jessica Cooley