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Total Lunar Eclipse on April 14/15

This article appeared in the April 11, 2014 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

By Vinita Domier

Special to the Enterprise

 

Look skywards on Monday, April 14, 2014, late night to experience the spectacular phenomenon of a total lunar eclipse. You don’t need any special equipment to view this celestial event occurring between 10:58pm and 2:33am, with totality from 12:07am to 1:25am and peaking at 12:46am. The last total lunar eclipse visible from North America happened on Dec 10, 2011, and the next one will be visible on October 8, 2014.

 

An eclipse occurs when any or all parts of the earth or the moon enters the shadow cone cast by the other. This happens when the earth and moon chance to line up with the sun while each is revolving in its own orbit. When the earth is between the sun and the moon, it blocks sunlight from reaching the moon, resulting in a lunar eclipse. When the moon is between the sun and the earth, it blocks sunlight from reaching the earth, resulting in a solar eclipse.

 

A lunar eclipse can only occur in full moon phase, when the moon and the sun are on earth’s opposite sides. The earth casts a dark umbral shadow and a fainter penumbral shadow.

 

A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is in the penumbral shadow only, a partial lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is in both the umbral and penumbral shadows, and total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is completely in the umbral shadow. A lunar eclipse is visible from the night half of the earth, as the earth’s shadow cone is wide enough to cover the entire moon.

 

On April 14 evening, the moon will rise in full phase. At 10:58pm it will enter the umbral shadow of the earth and rapidly go through the waning gibbous, third quarter, and waning crescent phases until it is in a new moon phase 12:07am. For the next 78 minutes, the moon will be totally eclipsed. At 1:25am, the moon will exit the umbral shadow of the earth and rapidly go through waxing crescent, first quarter, and waxing gibbous phases until it is full again at 2:33am.

 

During the totality period, the moon will not be completely invisible like it is in a true new moon phase. The moon will appear dark and reddened, as it will be faintly illuminated by the red component of sunlight scattered by the earth’s atmosphere.

 

Lunar (and solar) eclipses do not happen on every full (or new) moon. This is because the orbit of the moon is inclined by 5 degrees from the orbital plane of the earth. Most of the time, the moon is either above or below this plane, and hence the earth, moon, and sun do not line up perfectly.

 

 Eclipses are only possible at the two points, called nodes, where the earth’s and the moon’s orbital planes intersect. This alignment usually happens twice a year resulting in two ecliptic seasons, each with the possibility of up to two lunar and two solar eclipses per season.

 

 

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Explorit’s coming events:

 

  • Explorit’s Beautiful World: Science and Art exhibition is open to the public every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m. and every Friday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free.
  • Summer Science Camp is coming!  Registration is open now, but camps are filling up so don’t wait, register now!  Camp titles, a full schedule and all the details are coming soon to www.explorit.org.
  • Catch Explorit at U.C. Davis Picnic Day in the nonprofit section on campus on Saturday, April 12.

 

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Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit http://www.explorit.org, or “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb.

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