Forum News Service, Published April 13 2014
Total eclipse of the moonA total lunar eclipse will occur early Tuesday, just past midnight.
Assuming the weather is favorable, the total eclipse is the first in several years that will be visible in the Upper Midwest.
“Total lunar eclipses occur on Earth about every six months, but Minnesotans have not seen a total lunar eclipse since 2010 because the moon, Earth and sun must align just right,” Sally Brummel, planetarium education and outreach coordinator at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum, said in a news release. “We not only get a chance to see one now, but three more follow for us in six-month intervals.”
The next total lunar eclipse will occur Oct. 8.
The easiest viewing starts just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, with the start of the total eclipse about an hour later. The total eclipse should end at 3:35 a.m.
“You do not need any special equipment like telescopes or binoculars,” Brummel said of viewing the lunar eclipse. “Dress for the weather, lean back in your deck chair and enjoy nature’s show.”
During a total lunar eclipse, the moon passes directly into Earth’s shadow, and viewers can see the Earth’s curved shadow pass over the moon.
Near mid-eclipse, the moon often turns shades of red from sunlight refracting through the Earth’s atmosphere and reflecting off the moon. The term “blood moon” is sometimes used in connection with total lunar eclipses, but it is not a term that scientists use, the university reported.
Exactly how dark or how red the moon becomes during the eclipse depends on how deeply it falls into the Earth’s shadow. But the condition of the Earth’s atmosphere also plays a role.
“If the atmosphere contains a lot of volcanic ash or smoke from forest fires, the moon will appear dark red or nearly black,” Brummel said. “If the atmosphere is relatively clean, the moon will remain fairly bright.”
Best viewing times
Night owls will benefit from a striking view if skies remain clear enough.
- Start of easiest eclipse viewing: 12:58 a.m. Tuesday
- Start of total eclipse: 2:07 a.m.
- Mid-eclipse: 2:46 a.m.
- End of total eclipse: 3:35 a.m.
- End of easiest eclipse viewing: 4:34 a.m.
Source: University of Minnesota, Bell Museum planetarium