This weekend we will experience another solar phenomenon as the first lunar eclipse of this year occurs. A lunar eclipse takes place when the Earth, sun and moon are all in alignment and the Earth blocks the sun’s light to the moon. Interestingly enough, the eclipse can only happen when there is a full moon. In the United States, the lunar eclipse can be seen beginning at 5:00 EST on Saturday morning, as the moon becomes caught in the shadows of the Earth.
This year, the alignment of all three planets will take place on Saturday morning, April 4, 2015. While some may not want to wake up early to witness the beginning stages of the moon being eclipsed in the shadows of earth, they can still catch it before it ends around 10:59 a.m. EST. One of the neatest features of the lunar eclipse is that you can watch it with your very own eyes. No special or extra equipment is needed, as when you watch a solar eclipse and have to protect your eyes from the sun’s rays.
Several factors determine when a lunar eclipse takes place; there are usually at least two of them per calendar year that can be seen. The most important factor is the orbital rotation of the moon around the earth. The eclipse occurs whenever the orbit of the moon intersects with the orbit of the earth at a specific point.
Several other eclipses take place on a regular basis, but they are often so minute a detail that the eclipse goes unnoticed. There are three different types of lunar eclipses: penumbral, partial, and total. Outside of the scientific and educational realm, penumbral eclipses are not as interesting or important; however, they do occur on a more regular basis than the total lunar eclipse that will be witnessed on Saturday.
Other interesting facts about the eclipse are the color of the moon during the eclipse is determined by the amount of dust in the atmosphere of the earth. This gives it a range option of four different colors. Also, timing the craters on the surface of the moon helps to determine the effects of dust and ash on the atmosphere of the Earth.
The upcoming lunar eclipse falls on the tail of a solar eclipse that took place just two weeks ago. The solar eclipse ironically took place as we christened the first day of spring. Like the lunar eclipse, all three planets; the sun, moon, and earth have to be in orbital alignment for the solar eclipse to take place. Watching a solar eclipse requires more preparation, however, including special glasses to protect your eyes from the harmful rays of the sun.
If you missed out on that solar phenomenon, were unaware of it happening, or were not in the right location to see it, this Saturday will provide another opportunity to witness the creative wonders of the world we live in. Do not be left out when the moon gets caught in the Earth’s shadows and causes the first lunar eclipse of 2015!
By Tonia D Benas
Photo by Tarique Sani – Flickr License