If you missed the total eclipse of the moon in April, you might have another chance: On Wednesday morning, the second of four lunar eclipses this year and next will occur.
While the eclipse will be visible from all of North America, “If you’re in the central or western parts of the U.S. and Canada, you’ll see the total eclipse high in a dark sky well before sunrise. Easterners will find dawn brightening and the Moon sinking low in the west while the eclipse is in progress — offering particularly interesting photo opportunities. Viewers in Australia and eastern Asia get to view this event on the evening of October 8th local date,” according to Sky & Telescope magazine.
As with the eclipse in April, this week’s event will be another “blood moon” because, as Space.com explains, the reflected light off the lunar surface first passes through Earth’s atmosphere, where the sun’s rays are scattered, stripping out the other colors in the spectrum.
“Interested skywatchers should attempt to see the total eclipse of the moon and the rising sun simultaneously. The little-used name for this effect is called a ‘selenelion,’ a phenomenon that celestial geometry says cannot happen.
“And indeed, during a lunar eclipse, the sun and moon are exactly 180 degrees apart in the sky. In a perfect alignment like this (called a ‘syzygy’), such an observation would seem impossible. But thanks to Earth’s atmosphere, the images of both the sun and moon are apparently lifted above the horizon by atmospheric refraction. This allows people on Earth to see the sun for several extra minutes before it actually has risen and the moon for several extra minutes after it has actually set.”
And Sky & Telescope notes: “If you’re stuck under cloudy skies, at least two webcasts are planned. Weather permitting in Los Angeles, Griffith Observatory plans a 4½-hour-long webcast beginning on October 8th at 1:15 a.m. PDT (8:15 UT). Meanwhile, Gianluca Masi has assembled an international team of photographers for his Virtual Telescope Project webcast at 6:00 a.m. EDT (10:00 UT).”
This second of four total lunar eclipses for 2014 and 2015 is called a tetrad. The final two in the series will occur on April 4, 2015, and Sept. 28, 2015.
The U.S. Naval Observatory has a handy calculator to let you know exactly when to look up at your location.