'Blood Moon' to be Visible for Early Risers

By: CBS News Email
By: CBS News Email

(CBS News) Early risers and night owls should prepare to see a bright full moon turn a reddish hue during a total lunar eclipse early on the morning of April 15.

Completely safe to watch with the naked eye, astronomer Fred Espenak told the Washington Post that this lunar eclipse could take on "a dramatically colorful appearance, ranging from bright orange to blood red."

The eclipse should be visible across most of North and South America. According to NASA, it will begin as a partial eclipse at 1:58 a.m. ET, with the total eclipse lasting from 3:07 a.m. to 4:25 a.m. ET.

Not only significant to astronomers, social media sites have been abuzz with posts about the date, which is also known as the "full pink moon." A traditional Native American name inspired by the first spring flowers, it refers to a full moon that occurs in April -- not when the moon literally turns pink in color.

Still, this eclipse may be the exception. A reddish hue will surround the moon, due to the indirect sunlight that manages to reach and illuminate it. Sunlight must first pass deep through the Earth's atmosphere, filtering out most of the blue colored light, resulting this reddish color. Earth's atmosphere can also refract some of the light, causing a small fraction to reach and illuminate the moon, according to Espenak's website.

There are three types of eclipses -- partial, penumbral and total. In a partial eclipse, the moon is nearly in the Earth's shadow, resulting in a fraction of the moon being darkened. In a penumbral eclipse, the moon passes through the pale outskirts of the Earth's shadows, resulting in such a subtle eclipse that most people don't realize. In a total eclipse, the Earth is positioned between the sun and the moon, causing sunlight to be blocked from reaching a normally radiant full moon.

The April 15 total eclipse represents the first of four total lunar eclipses in a row -- known as a tetrad, which happen occasionally. The next three eclipses will be occurring on this year on Oct. 8 and April 4, with the fourth occurring on Sept. 28, 2015. This will be the second of eight tetrads this century, with the last one occurring in 2004 and the next in 2032.

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