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Total Lunar Eclipse for North America on the Night of April 14-15, 2014

The above diagram, courtesy of the eclipse master Fred Espenak, gives the eclipse times in Eastern Daylight Time. Click here to see a diagram for a different North American time zone.

Eclipse times for the Eastern Daylight Time Zone (April 15, 2014)

Partial eclipse begins: 1:58 a.m. EDT

Total eclipse begins: 3:07 a.m. EDT

Greatest eclipse: 3:46 a.m. EDT

Total eclipse ends: 4:25 a.m. EDT

Partial eclipse ends: 5:33 a.m. EDT

Eclipse Geometry

A total eclipse of the Moon can only happen at Full Moon. That's because it's only at this phase whereby it's possible for the Moon to be directly opposite the Sun in our sky, and for the Moon to swing directly through the Earth's dark umbral shadow.

If the Moon revolved around Earth in the same planet that Earth revolves around the Sun, then there would be a total lunar eclipse at every Full Moon. As the geometry of the solar system would have it, however, the Moon's orbital plane is inclined by about 5o to the ecliptic - Earth's orbital plane.

For half the month, the Moon travels north of the Earth's orbital plane, and for the other half the month, the Moon travels south of the Earth's orbital plane. Twice a month, the Moon crosses the the ecliptic - Earth's orbital plane - at points called nodes. If the Moon crosses the ecliptic going from south to north, it's called an ascending node: if the Moon crosses the ecliptic from north to south, it's called an descending node.

If the Moon turns full appreciably close to either node, a lunar eclipse is not only possible, but inevitable. Fortunately, the Full Moon happens a short while before crossing its ascending node, to swing through the southern half of the Earth's dark shadow, as shown on the illustration below. It's not a perfect alignment of Full Moon and its node, but it's plenty close enough.

Note on the above illustration: The Moon, as always, passes through the Earth’s shadow, going from west to east. The yellow line represents the ecliptic - Earth’s orbital plane projected onto the constellations of the zodiac. The Moon crosses the ecliptic at its ascending node, going from south to north, in front of the constellation Virgo. The eclipse times are given in Universal Time.

Look for two bright colorful points of light near the Moon on the night of April 14-15. The brighter of the two is the red planet Mars and the other brilliant beauty is sparkling blue-white Spica, Virgo's brightest star.

copyright 2014 by Bruce McClure

March 2014 Feature * May 2014 Feature