To view lunar eclipse, you’ll need to get up early on April 15

Posted April 09, 2014, at 2:54 p.m.
The moon turns red-orange during a lunar eclipse in 2008.
Bridget Brown | BDN
The moon turns red-orange during a lunar eclipse in 2008. Buy Photo

LIMESTONE, Maine — Viewing the lunar eclipse on April 15 is as easy as looking up.

More specifically, looking up to the southwest.

“You don’t need a telescope — you don’t even need to go outside if you have a window facing southwest,” said Larry Berz, astronomy teacher at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics. “It’ll be low in the southwestern sky as it begins — and when it ends the moon will be quite low in the horizon, so the sooner you can see it the better.”

Around 3 a.m.-3:15 a.m. Tuesday, Berz anticipates the moon will be fully eclipsed, and with the lunar eclipse comes colorful hues without comparison.

When the Earth passes between the moon and the Sun, Earth’s atmosphere refracts light onto the surface of the moon.

“The moon, instead of becoming black … it could become everything,” Berz said with a laugh. “It could be one of a million colors, but it tends to become red or orange or coppery. Depending how deeply the moon enters the shadow of the Earth, will qualify the darkness of the eclipse.”

In the rarest cases, the moon will completely disappear.

“That last happened in 1963,” Berz said.

This lunar eclipse is anticipated to begin around 1:58 a.m. Tuesday, April 15, with a shadow that will creep across the surface of the moon.

“This refraction of light — sunlight — creates this weird palette of colors,” Berz said. “I’ve never seen colors anywhere on the Earth like these colors. You’ll see bluish-peach. Greenish-lemon — I can’t think of words to interpret what I see — there aren’t any words for it.”

“They’re not colors you’ll see at Walmart, you’re not going to see them at the mall, you’re not going to see them on your television or your laptop, they cannot be created on the Earth this way,” the educator added. “You have to see the little photons in your own eyeball — I’ve never seen anything like it, and the colors are changing all the time.”

About 20 or more MSSM students are planning on camping out in the school to observe the event, both as budding scientists and human beings; as Berz described, witnessing a lunar eclipse is an opportunity to become more than yourself.

“The event is compelling you to think not just globally, not just locally, not just regionally — but planetary. For a brief, shining darkening moment … it offers a chance to connect globally, personally and socially with what it means to be an Earthling,” he said.

Those interested in finding out more information about the lunar eclipse can contact Berz at MSSM or at the Francis Malcolm Science Center at 488-5451.

“These are beautiful things,” Berz said. “Much of astronomy is subtle and sublime; it isn’t going to make headlines, except in your own heart.”

 

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