A total lunar eclipse will occur on April 4, 2015. This is the shortest total lunar eclipse of the century and third of four total lunar eclipses separated by approximately 6 months, a rare phenomenon astronomers call a 'tetrad.' The first two were on April 15 and October 8, 2014 and the last will occur on September 28, 2015.
This eclipse is well placed for westernmost North America, Hawaii, Japan, New Zealand and Australia where the entire event will be visible. Observers in eastern North America and western South America will miss some stages of the eclipse because they occur after moonset.
Similarly, observers in central Asia, will miss the early stages of the eclipse since it begins before moonrise. No part of the eclipse is visible from Europe, Africa, the Middle East or eastern South America.
The totality will last only 4 minutes and 43 seconds, a result of the fact that the Moon is skimming the outskirts of Earth's shadow. This makes it the shortest total lunar eclipse of the century and 4th shortest occurring between 1501 and 2500.
Only the total lunar eclipses of October 17, 1529, September 11, 2155 and May 25, 2366 are shorter, NASA's eclipse specialist Fred Espenak said. "If we expand our search to include the 3 479 total lunar eclipses occurring during the 5 000-year period -1999 to 3000, we find that the April 4th eclipse still places a respectable 8th shortest."
The major phases of the eclipse occur as follows: The partial eclipse commences with first umbral contact at 10:15 UTC. Totality begins at 11:58 UTC and lasts until 12:03 UTC. The partial phases end at 13:45 UTC.
During an eclipse, the moon often looks reddish because sunlight has passed through Earth's atmosphere, which filters out most of its blue light. This effect has earned the nickname "blood moon" but Espenak expects the total phase to appear bright red or orange:
"The color and brightness of the totally eclipsed Moon can vary considerably from one eclipse to another. Dark eclipses are caused by volcanic gas and dust which filters and blocks much of the Sun's light from reaching the Moon. Although Indonesia's Mount Kelud has undergone recent volcanic eruptions, it has not produced enough dust and gas to significantly darken April's eclipse. Expect the total phase to appear bright red or orange, which is typical."
The next lunar eclipse tetrad will start on April 25, 2032.
Watch it online
Slooh will broadcast the eclipse live on April 4 from multiple sites across the world. The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles will provide a live feed from their telescope as well as The Virtual Telescope Project.
All three shows start at 10:00 UTC.
Featured image credit: NASA. Edit: The Watchers.
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