Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

102,577 subscribers and counting ...

EarthSky // Page 3

Turquoise dreams

Photo credit: T Richardsen

Photo credit: T Richardsen

Waterscape by T. Rchardsen

Sundial noon and clock noon agree in middle April

Every year around the middle of April, time by the sun and time by the clock agree. For instance, when the midday sun climbs highest in the sky in mid-April, the sundial reads 12 o’clock noon and your local clock time says 12 o’clock noon.

Your local clock time is the same as standard clock time, as long as you live on the meridian that governs your time zone. If you live east of the time zone line, then your local time runs ahead of standard time. If you live west of the time zone line, local time lags behind standard time.

Why is Mars near the moon on eclipse night?

On the night of April 14-15, the planet Mars - closest in 6 years - will be near the eclipsed moon.  The star Spica will also be nearby.  Illustration via Classical Astronomy.

On the night of April 14-15, the planet Mars – closest in 6 years – will be near the eclipsed moon. The star Spica will also be nearby. Illustration via Jay Ryan Classical Astronomy.

On April 8, Earth in its smaller orbit passed generally between Mars and the sun. Our motion in orbit has placed Mars opposite the sun from our point of view, visible all night while the sun is below our feet. It’s what astronomers call an opposition of Mars. Meanwhile, a full moon is also, always, opposite the sun. It must be so, in order to appear full from Earth. An outer planet is always near the full moon during the month it reaches opposition. A total eclipse always happens at full moon. Voila! Mars is near the moon on eclipse night. More illustration inside to help you visualize it.

What is a Blood Moon?

This is what a total eclipse looks like.  This is the total eclipse of October 27, 2004 via Fred Espenak of NASA, otherwise known as Mr. Eclipse.  Visit Fred's page here.

This is what a total eclipse looks like. This is the total eclipse of October 27, 2004 via Fred Espenak of NASA. Visit Fred’s page here. We astronomy writers often describe a totally eclipsed moon as appearing ‘blood red.’ Here’s why the moon turns red during a total eclipse.

The first Blood Moon eclipse in a series of four is coming up on the night of April 14-15, 2014. This total eclipse of the moon will be visible from the Americas. We in astronomy had not heard the term Blood Moon used in quite this way before this year, but now the term is becoming widespread in the media.

Total lunar eclipse for the Americas on night of April 14-15

Total lunar eclipse in 2004 by Fred Espenak

Total lunar eclipse in 2004 by Fred Espenak

The April 2014 full moon will pass directly through Earth’s dark (umbral) shadow, to stage a total eclipse of the moon for nearly 1 and 1/3 hours, during the nighttime hours on April 14 or 15 (depending upon time zone). A partial umbral eclipse precedes totality by over an hour, and follows totality by over an hour, so the moon takes a little more than 3 and ½ hours to completely sweep through the Earth’s dark shadow. On eclipse night, the brilliant “star” near the April full moon is no star at all but the red planet Mars. They’ll be within each others vicinity all night long.

A Christian astronomer talks about Blood Moons

Lunar eclipse via Classical Astronomy.

Lunar eclipse via Classical Astronomy.

By Jay Ryan of the website Classical Astronomy

The total eclipse of Tuesday morning, April 15, 2014 is the first in a tetrad of total eclipses. That is four in a row, an uncommon alignment of the astronomical circumstances that cause eclipses to take place. There will be another total eclipse this year on October 8, and also on April 4 and September 28 of 2015. Tetrads are somewhat uncommon astronomical events. Interestingly, the eclipses of this tetrad also happen to coincide with the Jewish feasts of Passover and Sukkoth (or Tabernacles). These eclipses are being represented as Blood Moons in a couple of books that are currently making the rounds, and the Christian media is all abuzz. These books are predicting that this tetrad of eclipses are prophetic portents, harbingers of significant events ahead for the nation of Israel, and even the End Times, presaging the Second Coming of Jesus. Honestly friends, this touches a couple of my pet peeves …

Times in EDT for Tuesday morning’s total eclipse of moon

Times for the total lunar eclipse on Tuesday morning, April 15, in Eastern Daylight Time.  Chart by Fred Espenak.  Used with permission.

Times for the total lunar eclipse on Tuesday morning, April 15, in Eastern Daylight Time. Chart by Fred Espenak. Used with permission.

Save this chart! You’ll probably want to look at it again.

Watch for Mars near moon on April 13-14

2014-april-13-mars-moon-night-sky-chart

On the night of April 13, Mars is visible near the moon soon as soon as darkness falls, and, one night later, during the night of April 14-15, Mars will be closest to Earth for this two-year period and it will be near the moon again as the moon undergoes a total lunar eclipse, visible from the Americas. So … wow!

Brightest Mars in six years on eclipse night

Anthony Wesley in Australia captured this marvelous image of Mars on March 6, 2014.

Anthony Wesley in Australia captured this marvelous image of Mars on March 6, 2014.

Earth passed between Mars and the sun on April 8. Our two worlds are closest on April 14. On that night, Mars is near the moon at the time of a total eclipse!

Star of the week: Mizar and Alcor, famous double star, really six stars

Located in the handle of the Big Dipper, Mizar (brighter) and Alcor (fainter) are one of the most famous visual double stars in the sky.  Image via ESO Online Digitized Sky Survey

Located in the handle of the Big Dipper, Mizar (brighter) and Alcor (fainter) are one of the most famous visual double stars in the sky. Image via ESO Online Digitized Sky Survey

Mizar and its fainter companion star Alcor are one of the most famous double stars in the sky. You’ll spot Mizar first, as the middle star of the Big Dipper’s handle. Look closely, and you’ll see Alcor right next to Mizar.

Mizar and Alcor appear so closely linked in our sky’s dome that they’re often said to be a test of eyesight. But in fact even people with less than perfect eyesight can see the two stars, especially if they’re looking in a dark clear sky. This pair of stars in the Big Dipper’s handle is famously called “the horse and rider.” If you can’t see fainter Alcor with the unaided eye, use binoculars to see Mizar’s nearby companion.

Mizar is perhaps the Big Dipper’s most famous star, glorified in the annals of astronomy many times over. Apart from Alcor, Mizar in itself became known a double star in 1650. In fact, it was the first double star to be seen through a telescope.