'Blood Moon' Begins Series Of Lunar Eclipses

Apr 14, 2014

Stargazers are in for a treat if they’re willing to stay up late tonight. A rare lunar eclipse known as a blood-moon will begin tomorrow morning at about 2 a.m. Eastern time. The full eclipse will last from about 3 a.m. to 4:30 a.m.

Kelly Beatty, senior contributing editor for Sky & Telescope magazine joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to explain the phenomenon, which is part of a “tetrad,” and the best time to watch.


Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Well, whether you live in the Southwest or the Northeast or anywhere in this country and you're willing to stay up late tonight and the skies are clear, you could be in for a treat. A rare lunar eclipse known as a blood moon will begin tonight around 2 a.m. Eastern time, 11 p.m. on the West Coast. Kelly Beatty is senior contributing editor for Sky & Telescope Magazine. He's with us now. Kelly, a blood-moon. What does that mean?

KELLY BEATTY: Yeah. That's the color that the moon takes when it's in the deepest part of the Earth's shadow. You'd think that it would just disappear during an eclipse. But if you were standing on the moon and looking back toward the Earth, you would see the moon - the sun hidden and this brilliant crimson ring around the Earth from the atmosphere. And that red light is leaking through into the shadow, and it colors the moon a dim, murky red, sometimes copper-colored.

HOBSON: So what's the best time to watch?

BEATTY: Well, the eclipse is a very slow motion event. The whole thing takes about three and a half hours. But the core, when the moon is really blacked out, will be 78 minutes, centered on the East Coast 3:46 a.m. That'd be 12:46 a.m. on the West Coast. This is definitely a night owl event.

HOBSON: Yeah. It's not really even staying up late at that point. It's really getting up early. This is the first in a series of four total lunar eclipses that are going to take place at regular six-month intervals. Is that right?

BEATTY: That's right. This is called a lunar tetrad, and it's not often that we get this to happen. The next four lunar eclipses - after a dry spell that goes back to 2011, the next four will be total. We've got another one coming up in October. That's also going to be an early morning event.

HOBSON: I see Neil deGrasse Tyson, who hosts the show "Cosmos," tweeted: Total eclipses occur every couple of years or so. If anyone calls them rare, ask if they feel that way about the Olympics. Kelly, while we have you hear, quickly, there is another space story today. The Field Museum in Chicago is sending microbes from Sue the T. rex up to the International Space Station. Blast off, set for this afternoon. What are they hoping to learn about them?

BEATTY: I think they're going to learn how much public relations they can get by having microbes that are on a dinosaur. You know, there have been a lot of microbes sent into space to see what the effect of radiation is on them. This isn't even the first time that dinosaur fossils or pieces have been sent into space. So I think it's an attempt to see how these microbes behave. They think that they might have come with this dinosaur long ago. So an old microbe, new microbe might have different reaction to the space environment.

HOBSON: Kelly Beatty, senior contributing editor for Sky & Telescope Magazine. Are you going to be up at 3:46?

BEATTY: I'm going to take a peak, for sure.

HOBSON: Thanks so much for coming in, as always.

BEATTY: My pleasure. Clear skies.

HOBSON: This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.