Friday, April 3, 2015

April's Blood Moon

While the next lunar eclipse will be partially visible in our neck of the woods, it's going to be a challenge to see it. 

Photo of Blood Moon; Courtesy CNN


During an event of this nature, the moon crosses beneath a shadow that is cast by the earth when the sun is directly behind it. The earth's atmosphere filters out most of the blue light through a process of light scattering, and the moon appears red in the earth's shadow! Hence the nickname, 'blood moon'.





For one of two reasons, April 4th's 'Blood Moon' will be very difficult to view Saturday morning. 

Here's why:

1. This is the briefest (shortest-lived) total lunar eclipse of the century! 
We're talking a fraction of the time it takes most other lunar eclipses to begin and end in our sky. 

The path of the lunar eclipse visibility April 4th, 2015; Courtesy of timeanddate.com
The image above shows the visibility of the lunar eclipse under perfect sky conditions.
Imagine clear viewing in parts of Australia and Alaska and more limited visibility farther from the center of the standard deviation.

While most of North America should have at least a partial view of the event, its duration may limit viewing possibilities even further. Some eclipse timelines can stretch beyond a full hour, but Saturday's Blood Moon will only be visible for 4 minutes. 

Yep, 4 minutes. 

Well, 4 minutes, 43 seconds, to be exact. 

According to NASA, the reason for the shorter duration of the event is the fact that the moon will be crossing through the outer edge of the Earth's shadow, rather than passing directly through the center. 

Starting at 6:16am EDT, the moon will cross into the earth's shadow.
The total lunar eclipse happens from 7:58am-8:02am EDT.
This 4 minute span will be the best opportunity to grab an award-winning photo of the Blood Moon.


2. Cloud cover will limit visibility, and sunrise will interrupt the view.

Saturday's sunrise is at 7:14am, limiting moon-viewing even before the eclipse is set to take place.

Even so, cloud cover will probably limit visibility so much that catching a glimpse of the eclipse may just be a pipe dream, anyway. 


Showers will end by 3am, but cloud cover will persist into the morning hours.

Maybe next time, Blood Moon!