Total Lunar Eclipse of April 14-15, 2014
The first lunar eclipse of 2014

Across much of North America (as well as other locations) the first lunar eclipse of 2014 will be visible on the evening of April 14th and into the early morning hours of April 15th - as long as the skies are clear!  In New Mexico, you will need to stay up past midnight to view the eclipse.

A lunar eclipse occurs only during a full moon, when moon passes through the shadow of the earth (see diagram below).  During a total lunar eclipse, the moon often has a vibrant red-orange hue, as as shown in the photograph to the right, taken by Becky Ramotowski in Tijeras in 2009. 

This striking color is due to the Earth's atmosphere!  Without an atmosphere, the moon would be black during a total lunar eclipse.  However, small particles in the atmosphere both refract and scatter sunlight. As with a sunset, the shorter wavelengths of the sun's visible light (blue and violet) are scattered the most, with the longer wavelenths (red and orange) remaining.  The amount of dust in the atmosphere and the presence of clouds affect the color of the moon during an eclipse.

 

Lunar eclipses are considered total when the moon passes completely into Earth's umbral, or darkest, shadow. The eclipses are viewable from the night side of the earth.

 

Earth's shadow is cone-shaped and is defined by two areas.  The umbra is the darkest portion of the earth's shadow (dark gray in the figure to the right) and is the are where the sun's light is completely blocked.  The penumbra is the transitional area between the regions of total shadow and total illumination (light gray on the figure).  As the moon moves from the penumbra to the umbra during a total lunar eclipse, the illuminated moon will take on the orange or red glow.

graphic of Earths shadow on moon

The graphic below is a schematic of the upcoming solar eclipse.  In New Mexico, you'll need to stay up past midnight to enjoy it.

 

graphic of lunar eclipse

(More details are available here.)

Also, on the evening of April 14, Mars will have it's closest approach to Earth since January 2008, and Jupiter will be prominent in the evening sky and for several hours after sunset.

The next total lunar eclipse visible from North America will occur this fall, or October 8, 2014.

For more information on the lunar eclipse, vist the NASA lunar eclipse site.

NASA also has a lunar and solar eclipse page.

For some photos from previous lunar eclipse events, see the NASA eclipse photography page and the NASA Astronomy picture of the day.

 

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