14 April 2014, 11:17

Red Moon: April 14 marks first eclipse in series of four rare celestial events

Red Moon: April 14 marks first eclipse in series of four rare celestial events

Stargazers, don't miss a chance to view a total lunar eclipse tonight! It will be the first in an extraordinary row of total lunar eclipses and is expected to last around 78 minutes. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, the Earth and the moon are in perfect alignment so that the Earth's shadow completely covers the surface of the moon.

When the celestial body is completely in the shadow of the Earth, in what is known as "totality," the Moon will not disappear but instead remain dimly lit by a deep orange or red glow. Such colorful eclipses are known as a "blood moon" or "hunter's moon."

Tony Cook, astronomical observer at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, warns that the actual color of the Moon during the eclipse is hard to predict. It depends on how the Earth's atmosphere filters the light. Dust storms and ash from volcanic eruptions should be taken into account because they affect the shade, sometimes leading to a bluish-gray or yellow color. He adds that truly blood-red moons are an extremely rare event.

Andrew Fazekas, a spokesman for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, explains: "The more dust there is, the deeper orange and red will be the color of the lunar eclipse."

In total, four "blood moons" are anticipated to occur over the next year and a half in an event known as "tetrad." There will be no partial lunar eclipses in between. The remaining three blood moons of this tetrad will occur on October 8, 2014; April 4, 2015; and September 28; 2015. Since the next tetrad is not expected to happen until 2032-33, it’s worth staying up to catch the tonight show!

All in all, the phenomenon of four total eclipses in a row will happen eight times this century.

Keep in mind, it’s totally safe to see a lunar eclipse and you can watch it with your naked eyes.

The first eclipse of 2014 will offer ideal viewing for observers throughout the Western Hemisphere. Observers in the western Pacific, as well as in Europe and Africa will be able to catch some of the show. Sadly, none of the eclipse will be visible from northern and eastern Europe, eastern Africa, the Middle East or Central Asia.

April 15 eclipse is the 56th eclipse of Saros 122, according to NASA. This series of this cycle began on August 14, 1022, and is composed of 74 lunar eclipses. The last eclipse of the series will occur on October 29, 2338. Usual duration of the Saros series, containing 70 or more lunar eclipses, is between 12 and 15 centuries, with a celestial event occurring approximately every 6,585.3 days (18 years 11 days 8 hours).

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