Sunday, April 5, 2015

Total Lunar Eclipse Makes Brief Appearance

A partially eclipsed moon looms behind a statue of a Kansa Indian at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. The moment when the moon was completely obscured by Earth’s shadow lasted several minutes, making it the shortest lunar eclipse of the century. Charlie Riedel/AP

On Apr. 4, the full Moon passed through the shadow of the Earth, producing a brief but beautiful lunar eclipse. For nearly 5 minutes, the normally-gray face of the Moon turned red. The eclipse was visible over western North America, the Pacific, East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Lunar eclipses are often referred to as blood moons because of its reddish look when passing through the earth's atmosphere, filtering out most of its blue light.

They happen when the moon moves into the shadow cast by the sun shining on the earth. For a total lunar eclipse, the moon must be full, which means it is directly opposite the sun, with earth in-between.

The Moon traversed the northern edge of Earth’s dark umbral shadow and remained in it for just 4 minutes and 43 seconds. That makes it the 21st century’s shortest total lunar eclipse and the quickest since October 17, 1529, when totality lasted just 1 minute and 41 seconds.

Total lunar eclipse on Apr. 4 over Cambell, CA. Credit: Rick Baldridge
Total lunar eclipse on Apr. 4 over Cambell, CA. Credit: Rick Baldridge

The next very short lunar totality will be 2 minutes and 36 seconds on 11 September 2155. This was the sixth total lunar eclipse out of nine with totality under 5 minutes in a five millennium period between 2,000 BC and 3,000 AD.

The eclipse of April 4, 2015 is the third in a series of four total lunar eclipses – a lunar tetrad – all of which will be visible from North America.

The next total lunar eclipse will occur in September.

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