A Celestial Treat: Lunar Eclipse
Coming April 14-15, 2014
By Peter Davis, TAMIU Planetarium Director
On the night of April 14-15 the people of Southern Texas and most of the United States will be able to see a special celestial treat, the total eclipse of the moon. Each month we see a full moon when the moon is opposite the sun. Since the moon’s orbit is tilted 6 degrees out of the earth’s orbit and the moon passes above or below the shadow of the earth, we do not see a lunar eclipse each month at full moon.
Eclipse graph courtesy of Sky and Telescope Magazine
You do not need a telescope to enjoy the eclipse. The aided eye is nice or binoculars also give a nice view. Texas A&M International University’s Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium will have a telescope set up in the parking lot near the Science Center building from 1-3:30 a.m. to witness the eclipse. Students and the public are welcome to attend.
On the night of April14-15, however, the moon will travel through the shadow of the earth being eclipsed by the earth. If the earth had no atmosphere, the moon would disappear entirely from the sky during the totality of the eclipse. Since we do have an atmosphere, some of the light from the sun side is refracted or bent into the shadow. It is bent towards the red part of the spectrum causing the shadow to turn red. So, during the height of the eclipse the full moon will turn either orange or red in color.
In ancient times, Lunar Eclipses were considered to be an “evil” omen because the red color was associated with the color of blood. What we will see is the moon shortly after 1 am. It will start to turn grey as it enters the outer part of the earth’s shadow. (See diagram) Then by 2:08 a.m. the moon will have turned a red-like color as it will be completely in the dark part of the Earth’s shadow. This totality will last until 3:23 am. when the white light will begin to show back on the moon with the eclipse ending at 4:32 am.
Davis can be reached at 326.3129, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit offices located in Lamar Bruni Vergara Science Center, room 324E.
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