As Americans rush to file their taxes, a total lunar eclipse will occur in the early hours of April 15. Based on Earth’s position, North America will be in a perfect position to watch the entire lunar eclipse, which peaks at 3:45 a.m. EDT.
According to NASA, the total lunar eclipse will begin around 2 a.m. EDT. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the full moon passes behind Earth’s shadow, with the sun, Earth and moon in alignment. The eclipse will last for around three hours and it will be five years before North America will be able to see another total lunar eclipse in full. Ahead of the total lunar eclipse on April 15, stargazers can view a full moon on April 14.
The total lunar eclipse will not obscure the moon, but NASA says you can watch a sped-up version of the changing moon phases as it passes through Earth’s partial shadow, the penumbra. When the moon completely enters the Earth’s shadow, or umbra, it will appear red, and could be referred to as a red moon or as a blood moon, although the former is more common. Noah Petro, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter deputy project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement explaining the color, “It's a projection of all the Earth's sunsets and sunrises onto the moon.”
While everyone will be looking up, NASA will be holding its breath. The total lunar eclipse will prevent the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from charging its batteries, as it needs sunlight, and it will pass through Earth’s shadow twice before getting the chance to recharge its batteries. NASA will be monitoring LRO’s status, but the space agency believes the spacecraft will withstand the eclipse.
The total lunar eclipse on April 15 will be the first of four lunar eclipses, occurring in six-month intervals, known as a tetrad. The next total lunar eclipse will occur on Oct. 8 and the series of “blood moons” has led to some talk about the “end of days,” but that’s pretty unlikely. For now, the total lunar eclipse will be nothing more than a special astronomy viewing event.
A video discussing the total lunar eclipse on April 15, and its effect on the LRO, can be viewed below.