Tuesday, April 8, 2014

NASA LRO Mission and North America to Experience Total Lunar Eclipse

On April 15th, 2014 there will be a total lunar eclipse visible from North America. Noah Petro, LRO Deputy Project Scientist, discusses this unique event and what effect it will have on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

When people in North America look up at the sky in the early morning hours of April 15, they can expect the moon to look a little different.

A total lunar eclipse is expected at this time, a phenomenon that occurs when the Earth, moon and sun are in perfect alignment, blanketing the moon in the Earth's shadow.

Although lunar eclipses happen multiple times in a year during a full moon, this eclipse will be a particularly unusual viewing opportunity for North America.

Since the Earth's Western Hemisphere will be facing the moon during the eclipse, the continent will be in prime position to view it from start to finish.

In addition, the eclipse will coincide with nighttime in North America. The entire continent won't be able to witness a full lunar eclipse in its entirety again until 2019.

"Sometimes they'll happen and you'll have to be somewhere else on Earth to see them," said Noah Petro, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter deputy project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Most [residents] of the continental United States will be able to see the whole thing."

For those who are awake to watch the eclipse, which is scheduled to begin around 2:00 a.m. EDT and last over three hours, Petro said there would be several changes people can witness.

When the moon first enters the Earth's partial shadow, know as the penumbra, a dark shadow will begin creeping across the moon.

This will give the illusion that the moon is changing phases in a matter of minutes instead of weeks.

"Eventually there will be a chunk of darkness eating the moon," Petro said.

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