There is some confusion as to when you should start watching the total lunar eclipse – known as a blood red moon – that is listed as occurring on April 15, 2014. Actually, in most places where it will be visible, you should start watching on April 14 – that’s Monday evening!
The confusion around the timing is because the official times listed for the eclipse are based on Eastern Daylight Time – even though the best viewing of the eclipse will be west of that time zone. So – officially – the eclipse’s start time is just before 1 a.m. EDT on April 15. Got that, New Yorkers? (Actually, NYC and the Eastern time zone as a whole is not the greatest spot to be trying to watch the eclipse; it is right on the eastern edge of the viewing area.)
But if you are watching in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Honolulu, etc, the eclipse starts before midnight on what is still Monday evening, April 14. To be clear: For L.A., and other points in the Pacific time zone, the eclipse will begin and reach totality just at the stroke of midnight on Monday night, and then continue into the wee hours of Tuesday morning!
Those “official” times exactly:
Onset: 12:53 a.m. EDT, April 15. (9:53 p.m. PDT, April 14)
Actual Eclipse Begins: 1:58 a.m. EDT, April 15. (10:58 p.m. PDT, April 14)
Totality Begins: 3:06 a.m. EDT, April 15. (12:06 a.m. PDT, April 15)
Darkest Point: 3:46 a.m. EDT, April 15. (12:46 a.m. PDT, April 15)
Totality Ends: 4:24 a.m. EDT, April 15. (1:24 a.m. PDT, April 15)
Party Ends: 5:33 a.m. EDT, April 15. (2:33 a.m. PDT, April 15)
You won’t see much for the first hour, but then into the second and third hours, the moon will darken gradually until it becomes a totally reddish disk. Then the process starts to wane, and about two to three hours later, it will be over.
The eclipse will be visible in much of the Western Hemisphere, including North America, Central America, the western half of South America and the islands of the Pacific Ocean*.
Why does the moon appear red? It has to do with the bending of light rays in the atmosphere. Eclipses occur when the Earth moves exactly between the Moon and the Sun; the Earth’s shadow covers the Moon. Most light is blocked, but some red bounces past, and seems to project itself, like a sunrise or sunset, coloring the Moon.
“The exact color that the moon appears depends on the amount of dust and clouds in the atmosphere,” according to NASA scientists. “If there are extra particles in the atmosphere, from say a recent volcanic eruption, the moon will appear a darker shade of red.”
If you miss this eclipse, don’t despair; another one is coming October 8, and that one will be visible in much of the same area – although the prime viewing area will shift a bit to the west, so that it includes some of Asia.
Of special note with this April 14/15 eclipse: Thus begins a series of four consecutive blood-red moons, called a tetrad – each separated by a period of six months which is, according to legend, a sign of the coming of the Apocalypse. Check back here in two years, and we’ll see how that turned out.
April 9, 2014
(*The eclipse will also be visible in Australia and New Zealand).