Get ready to view a celestial phenomenon, ladies and gents. A total lunar eclipse will be visible in the Boston sky during the overnight hours between April 14 and 15.
Stargazers in the Boston area will be able to watch the Moon completely fall behind the Earth’s shadow from 12:53 to 6:38 a.m. on April 15, with peak coverage from 3:46 to 4:24 a.m. If you’re still awake finishing your taxes, this is a perfect opportunity to take a break from filling out forms and take a breath of fresh air.
This will be the first total eclipse of 2014 that is visible from North America. A partial lunar eclipse was seen in October 2013, but we haven’t seen a total lunar eclipse since October 2011.
There’s a lot of fancy lingo that goes along with eclipses, so we’ll break things down to give you a better idea of what will be happening on the morning of April 15.
A total eclipse happens when the Sun, the Earth and the Moon are all in a straight line. It can only occur when there is a full moon. Since the moon does not emit its own light, it depends on light from the Sun. When the Earth gets in the middle and blocks the Sun’s light, it casts a shadow that covers the Moon. This is when the eclipse happens.
As the Earth moves in front of the Sun, it blocks some of the light and causes the Moon to get darker and turn a reddish color. This is the penumbral phase of the eclipse. Once all of the Sun’s light is blocked, the moon has entered the center of the Earth’s shadow, which is called the umbra.
Now that you’ve got that down, let’s go back to what’s happening early Tuesday morning. The penumbral phase of the eclipse will begin at 12:53 a.m. At this time, the Moon begins to lose its light source.
The Moon will continue to be obscured by the Earth’s shadow, then at 3:46 a.m., the Moon will be fully engulfed in the darkness of the umbra.
There will be 78 minutes of total eclipse visibility for North and South America. At approximately 4:24 a.m. the moon will slowly begin to sneak out from behind the Earth’s umbra, until it is totally uncovered and back to its full, bright beauty at 6:38 a.m.
That’s some pretty cool, sciencey stuff right there. What makes this event even better is that – unlike an eclipse of the sun – a lunar eclipse doesn’t present any hazards to the viewer, so you don’t need to wear any protective eye gear. The Moon will appear to have a coppery red ring around it, so brush up on your photography skills now.
This will be the first of two total lunar eclipses in 2014 for North America. We will also see two more total eclipses in 2015, which will make four consecutive eclipses occurring at approximately six-month intervals. This is called a tetrad, which will only occur nine times during the 21st century.
The total lunar eclipse on April 15 will be followed by eclipses on October 8, 2014, April 4, 2015 and September 28 2015.