Changing Planet

5 Sky Events This Week: Full Lunar Eclipse and Lord of the Rings

Saturn and its majestic rings are on full display in this Cassini mosaic image. This week the lord of the rings will be easy to find next to our own moon in the evening sky. Credit: Mattias Malmer,  NASA
Saturn and its majestic rings are on full display in this Cassini mosaic image. This week the “lord of the rings” will be easy to find next to our own moon in the evening sky. Credit: Mattias Malmer, NASA

This is a big week even for the most amateur of sky-watchers, with a rare full lunar eclipse and Mars getting as close as it ever does to Earth.

Moon shadow play. The moon will appear to be orange-red late Monday night and early Tuesday morning as it undergoes a total eclipse, the first visible from the Western Hemisphere in more than two years.

The first hints of Earth’s shadow taking a bite out of the moon’s silvery disk happens Tuesday at 1:58 a.m. EDT (Monday at 10:58 p.m. PDT). The celestial show will be visible across both American continents and most of the Pacific basin. (Related: “Why People See Faces in the Moon.”)

To minimize interruptions to sleep, consider catching the height of the totality, when the moon will be in the deepest part of Earth’s shadow and at its most colorful, which occurs at 3:46 a.m. EDT (12:46 a.m. PDT). (Related: “Lunar Eclipse Myths From Around the World.”)

Photographing the eclipse calls for a digital camera that you can mount on a tripod and set with a remote timer. Include a foreground object like a house, trees, or hills to add perspective to your shots. And try using multiple exposure lengths, from a fraction of a second to a few seconds long.

Get the most out of this celestial event by reading my viewer’s guide to the eclipse.

The full moon will turn orange-red in color during a total lunar eclipse as it enters the Earth's dark shadow cone. Credit: Sky and Telescope
The full moon will turn orange-red during a total lunar eclipse as it enters the Earth’s dark shadow cone. Credit: Sky and Telescope

Magnificent Mars. Not to be outdone by the eclipse, the red planet is at its closest to Earth on Monday night. A week after being at opposition—which is theoretically its closest point to Earth at 57.2 million miles (92 million kilometers)—it’s even closer on Monday due to the combined effect of both planets’ relative position to each other in their slightly elongated orbits. Earth is heading towards its most distant point from the sun while Mars is heading towards its closest point to the sun. On Monday night you can find it perched just above the moon. (See “Watch Mars Invade Our Sky: Biggest and Brightest Since 2007.”)

Celestial trio. Face the eastern sky after nightfall on Tuesday, April 15, for a straight alignment of orange-hued Mars, blue-white Spica—the brightest star in the constellation Virgo—and the silvery full moon. Amazing to think that these three objects are not only vastly different in origin but also in distance. While the moon is 248,550 miles (400,000 kilometers) away from Earth, Spica is 250 light-years away.

This skychart shows a celestial alignment between our moon, neighboring planet and distant star on the late evening of April 15. By the next night the moon will park itself next to Saturn. Credit: SkySafari
This sky chart shows a celestial alignment between our moon, our neighboring planet, and a distant star on the late evening of April 15. By the next night the moon will park itself next to Saturn. Credit: SkySafari

Moon and Saturn. Look for the waning moon to climb the evening sky on Wednesday, April 16, accompanied by Saturn as a close companion. The moon will appear only 2 degrees from Saturn, a separation equal to the width of two fingers held at arm’s length.

Lucky sky-watchers in the southern part of South America actually get to see the moon eclipse, or occult, Saturn. Here’s a detailed map and timetable of the occultation.

Lyrids begin. Look for a slow trickle of meteors to begin in the predawn hours of Thursday, April 17, signaling the beginning of the annual minor meteor shower known as the Lyrids.

Each shooting star appears to radiate out from its namesake constellation, Lyra, the Harp, which rises in the eastern sky in the predawn hours. From a half dozen shooting stars this week, expect the hourly rate of shooting stars to climb until it peaks, with the rate doubling by April 22.

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on TwitterFacebook, and his website.

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.
  • ratoon

    I cant see the moon tonight 🙁

  • malcolm

    being invole with astro club we are busy with sky viewing all week

  • Robbie

    Hi what is the best time to see the red moon eclipse in Ireland?

    Thanks
    Robbie

  • Claire Bowler

    How and when do I see it from the UK??

  • Henry Balingcongan

    Waiting at Fort Tryon, cloudy skies preventing me from getting a shot. 8:08pm

  • Jeanne Micheau

    Very exciting I hope I can at least witness .! Wish i could capture it on a picture

  • Jalal

    Valo lage.

  • MadamWaew

    At home. I can not see the moon because cloudy.

  • Abhijeet Panda

    I think all the seriese of NET GEO CHANNALS are the best channals in world.

  • Alexis Robledo 17

    That is so cool, I used my telescope to watch it.

  • litz

    Pls send us current info about skywatching

  • Gail Setterfield

    There’s no Blood Moon here, too much cloud cover.

  • Elba Sierra

    Impressive reddish moon…I was reading your article while watching this magnificent event. Interesting what you wrote specially for a zero experienced sky watcher as me. Thank you!

  • ashvin raghoobur

    could we see it from Mauritius island we are found in the indian ocean

  • Ima Ryma

    Bible verse says the moon will turn
    To blood to mark the coming time
    When unrepentant sinners burn
    In hell and all the faithful climb
    To salvation in heaven’s bliss.
    But science has shown humankind,
    A lunar eclipse explains this,
    Sun and Earth and moon all aligned.
    The moon is shadowed by the Earth,
    But still is tinted in sunlight,
    So appearing reddish. Tiz worth
    Families taking in the sight.

    Look my children to the blood moon,
    And know it is your bedtime soon.

  • stefanos Kondilas

    Hi….

  • RAMESH

    very lucky to see wonder today

  • Paula Forrester

    Great article! Thanks for sharing!

  • Paula Forrester

    Great article! I enjoyed it immensely !

  • joyce schmitz

    I want to hear more.

  • Viviana

    Hello – Will the celestial trio be visible in the North America? If so, around what time should we expect to see the alignment?

  • CARLOS GUILLERMO MANTEROLA CACERES

    BEATYFULL.

  • rakshanda

    Reminds me of the Creator and His miracles.

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