Late Monday night/early Tuesday morning will be an incredible time for skygazing. Not only is Mars bigger and brighter than it's been in more than six years, you'll also be able to witness the first total lunar eclipse of 2014. Here's how to watch.
Photo Credit: NASA
The last total lunar eclipse to be visible from this much of North America took place back in December 2010, but Monday night's will kick off a series of four such events in a "tetrad" of total lunar eclipses. According to NASA, the total eclipse of early morning April 15th will be followed by another on October 8th, and again on April 4th and September 28th of next year.
"The most unique thing about the 2014-2015 tetrad is that all of them are visible for all or parts of the USA," said NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak.
...And What's a "Blood Moon"?
It's possible you've heard tomorrow's eclipse referred to as a "blood moon," which, sure, sounds cool, but the term actually has religious origins (insofar as they are evidently relevant to biblical prophesy), not an astronomical one. As the good folks at EarthSky put it: "We can't really tell you why more and more people are using the term Blood Moon to describe the four full moons of a lunar tetrad. We don't know why, exactly."
You're going to want to either stay up late the night of Monday April 14th, or set your alarms for very early Tuesday, April 15th.
Image Credit: Fred Espenak
The lunar eclipse kicks off April 15th at 4:37 Universal Time (that's 12:37 AM Eastern, 9:37 PM Pacific), when the Moon enters the western edge of Earth's shadow, but the best views will come shortly after 7:00 UT (3:00 AM Eastern, midnight Pacific), at the start of totality. This deepest, darkest period of the eclipse will last until almost 4:30 AM Eastern (1:30 AM Pacific) and should make for a stunning view with Mars accompanying it through the night sky.
The eclipse should be visible across all of North America, so just make sure you're looking up at the right time! Watching from somewhere else in the world? The map below (excerpted from this guide from NASA) can help you figure out whether to expect a glimpse of the eclipse at moonrise, moonset, or not at all:
Competing with poor visibility? You can always watch online. Slooh is always a safe bet for events like this. Their coverage begins Tuesday morning at 2:00 a.m. Eastern. NASA will be hosting coverage, too, both on NASA TV as well as their "Up All Night" chat, both starting Tuesday at 1 a.m. ET.