April is going to be a great month for star-gazers, space-enthusiasts or just generally anyone who is consistently amazed by the incredible vastness and majesty of the solar system.
April 8th sees Mars, the Earth and the Sun teaming up for a rare celestial event, however April will also treat us to a particularly special lunar eclipse. April 15 will see the start of a tetrad of lunar eclipses which will periodically appear over the next two years. Luckily, for American readers, April 15th's lunar eclipse will be perfectly view-able from the Western Hemisphere. Fred Espenak of NASA helpfully broke down a predicted timeframe for the entire eclipse:
Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 04:53:37 UT
Partial Eclipse Begins: 05:58:19 UT
Total Eclipse Begins: 07:06:47 UT
Greatest Eclipse: 07:45:40 UT
Total Eclipse Ends: 08:24:35 UT
Partial Eclipse Ends: 09:33:04 UT
Penumbral Eclipse Ends: 10:37:37 UT
UT is Universal Time, which is essentially the same as GMT. Currently, this is 4 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and 7 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time. This means for gazers on the East Coast, the eclipse will begin in early hours of April 15th and continue through to 05:37:37 am.
As I'm sure most of you know, a total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is positioned directly between the moon and the sun. This means the moon passes through the Earth's shadow (or "umbra"), making it appear a dark reddish-orange color. This is because the Earth has blocked the light the moon usually receives from the sun, meaning the moon is reflecting light that has been refracted through the Earth's atmosphere, similar to a sun rise.
Now, although lunar eclipses occur about twice a year, they are not all total eclipses like this one. In fact, April 15th's is the first in a series of total eclipses that are spaced about 6 months apart - a relatively uncommon celestial event. To find out more about this, check out this NASA video below:
Unfortunately, the eclipse will only be visible to those living in North America. However, European and more far-flung readers can see the eclipse thanks to the guys over at the Slooh Space Camera. They will be hosting a live webcast of the event, which you can watch below (once it's begun):
What do you think? Will you be staying up to check out the eclipse? Let us know below.