A total lunar eclipse is one of many exciting, visible celestial events coming in the month of April, 2014. Mars will be look like a bright red star, the moon will experience a full lunar eclipse, and a meteor shower will rain shooting stars through the sky
Mars will be at Opposition on April 8, which means the red planet will be at its closest approach to Earth, and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view this event and photograph Mars. A medium-sized telescope will allow you to see some of the dark details on the planet’s orange surface. You may even be able to see one or both of the bright white polar ice caps.
According to Space.com:
“Mars will come to within 57.4 million miles (92.4 million km) of our planet, making its closest approach to Earth since January 2008. All through the night, Mars will resemble a dazzling star shining with a steady fiery-colored tint; its brightness will match Sirius, the most luminous of all the stars.”
April 15 marks a monthly lunar event, the Full Moon. The Moon is going to be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated.
As reported by The Sky:
“This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the first spring flowers. This moon has also been known as the Sprouting Grass Moon and the Growing Moon.”
Later that very same night, North America will have an excellent opportunity to view another celestial event, a total lunar eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. Space.com explains, “The full moon becomes transformed into a mottled reddish ball for 78 minutes as it is completely immersed in the shadow of the Earth. This total lunar eclipse is the first one widely visible from North America in nearly 3.5 years.” The total lunar eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, and Australia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
The Lyrids Meteor Shower will be most observable on the nights of April 22-23. This meteor shower is expected to be an average size, producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. The Skyexplains, “It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861.” The meteors in this celestial event can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The light from the moon may block the less bright meteors from view. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight.
The New Moon will occur on April 29. This lunar event occurs when the Moon is directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This is the best time of the month to observe hard-to-see objects because there is no moonlight to outshine other objects.
An Annular Solar Eclipse will produce a ring of fire that will only be visible in Antarctica. So unless you’re a penguin or a scientist stationed in Antarctica, you’re going to miss it. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun. The Sun’s corona is blocked by moon resulting in a ring of light around the darkened Moon. The path of the eclipse begins off the coast of South Africa, moves across Antarctica, and into the east coast of Australia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
[Image by Sean Bagshaw]