Get ready to throw a party
By Vernon Whetstone
Got your viewing location picked out for the upcoming total lunar eclipse? The eclipse occurs on the evening of Monday, April 14, and continues into the early morning hours of Monday, April 15.
This eclipse is the first of a series of four total lunar eclipses, this series is called a “tetrad.”
A tetrad is four total lunar eclipses approximately six months (six full moons) apart with no partial eclipses in between. The 21st century has a total of nine sets of tetrads. The last tetrad was in 2003-2004 and the next one—after the upcoming one—will be in 2032 to 2033.
The 300-year period from 1600 to 1900 had no tetrads at all, so this could be classified as rare.
All four of these eclipses will be visible from all or part of North America, and all but one of them occur in the early morning hours and one sets before the eclipse is over.
The four eclipses are on April 14/15, 2014, totality starts at midnight. For the Oct. 8, 2014, eclipse totality starts at 3:17 a.m. and ends at 6:35 a.m. right before the moon sets.
Totality for the April 4, 2015, eclipse starts at 4:19 a.m. and ends after the moon sets at 6:38 a.m. The Sept. 28, 2015, eclipse is the only one visible in the early evening hours. Totality starts at 7:09 p.m. and ends at 10:26 p.m.
All times are Mountain Daylight Time, so check your time zone.
All of these events are a good reason to throw an eclipse party, I mean, after all, who wants to be out in the dark all by themselves.
Bring along a Thermos or two of hot chocolate, some munchies or other goodies to eat, some lawn chairs—and with these early spring temperatures, a nice warm blanket or sleeping bag—and enjoy the view.
A telescope or binoculars are not needed, they will enhance the view somewhat. They would be handy though for observing things around the eclipsed moon.
For example, during the upcoming April 14/15 eclipse the brightening planet Mars is just up and right of the eclipsed moon and Saturn is one constellation to the left.
You could also tour the nebula and star clusters in Sagittarius which is rising at about that time not to mention some nice objects in Scorpius.
For a very nice video produced by NASA about the upcoming tetrad, point your favorite browser to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gzgSuJM5O8.
SKYWATCH: First quarter moon, Monday, April 7. Mars at opposition on Tuesday, April 8, it is opposite the Sun in the sky so it will be up and visible all night and the brightest it will be for the next two years.
Don’t be misled by the Mars Hoax that says Mars will be as big as a full moon, it won’t. A growing moon visits the bright star Regulus high in the south in the early evening hours of Thursday, April 10, and very bright Venus is close to the outer gas giant planet Neptune just before sunrise the morning of April 11, the view of the planetary pair will be best on the morning of Friday, April 12. They will both be in the same binocular field of view.
NEXT WEEK: More astronomical blathering.