Total Lunar Eclipse - Before Dawn on April 15
As in most of the United States, observers in Acadiana will be able to see a total lunar eclipse before dawn on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 (weather permitting, of course!).
As the moon orbits our planet, lunar eclipses happen as the moon passes through Earth's shadow. Because of the sun's small apparent size as seen from the distance of Earth and the moon, Earth appears to cast two shadows, a faint outer shadow called the penumbra and a darker inner one called the umbra. The moon's passage through the penumbra is almost unnoticeable, but the eclipse is pretty obvious once the moon enters the umbra!
The deeper the moon moves into the umbra, the redder the moon looks. The exact color varies from eclipse to eclipse depending on the clarity of Earth's atmosphere at that moment, but the colors are usually reddish-orange with varying brightness across the moon's disk. That happens because parts of the moon will be deeper into the eclipse than others. As an example, look at the picture on our home page, the upper left part of the moon is deep in Earth's umbra while the lower right has barely entered. The exact color and brightness of the eclipsed moon is impossible to predict in advance.
In April, the moon will enter Earth's penumbra at 11:54 p.m. Central Daylight Time on the 24th, but the eclipse will not be noticeable to most people until close to 12:30 a.m. on the 15th. The moon will enter the umbra at 12:58 a.m., with totality, the period when the moon is completely within the umbra, lasting from 2:07 to 3:25 a.m. Mid-eclipse, when the eclipse will be at its best, will be at 2:46 a.m. CDT on the 15th. The noticeable part of the eclipse will end when the moon exits Earth's umbra at 4:33 a.m. Since that's about an hour before moonset and less than an hour before sunrise that day, sky conditions may be washing out the view by then. The eclipse will probably be at its prettiest around mid-eclipse.
Because of the late hour for the eclipse, the planetarium will not have telescopes out for public viewing. You can see it conveniently from wherever you live, though, because this is not something that will be bothered much by light pollution (although it actually is much more impressive far from lights!). Common binoculars will give an even better view than the unaided eye and will probably give a prettier, if less detailed, view than a telescope. Even without a lunar eclipse party, this will be well worth a look!
There will be another pre-dawn total lunar eclipse on October 8 and a pre-dawn partial lunar eclipse on April 4, 2015, but the next "prime time" lunar eclipse for Acadiana will be on September 27, 2015. That should be a real beauty, and we do expect to have telescopes out for that one!