Many observers in North America, Australia and Asia will have a chance to catch a total lunar eclipse in the early hours of Wednesday, October 7. Starting at 5:15 a.m. EDT the moon will pass into Earth’s shadow, turning a coppery red. The period of totality, when the moon is completely within the shadow, begins at 6:25 a.m. EDT. The eclipse will be over by 8:34 a.m.
Weather permitting, this event—the second total lunar eclipse of the year—should provide a good show. If you plan to take in the sight, consider snapping a photo and sharing it with us below. We plan to post a gallery of the best shots at ScientificAmerican.com on Wednesday. For inspiration, see our slide show of photos from readers taken during the last total lunar eclipse.
During a total lunar eclipse, the sun and moon are 180 degrees apart, on either side of Earth. The three bodies line up straight, with Earth in the middle casting a shadow onto the moon, which becomes darkened because sunlight cannot reach it directly. The moon will still be visible, however, because some of the sun’s rays can reach it by bending around Earth through our planet’s atmosphere. This process tends to turn the moon a glowing red, just as sunlight passing through the thickest part of our atmosphere during sunrise and sunset ends up red (blue light is scattered, but red shines through).
The next total lunar eclipse will not be until September 28, 2015. But before then we will have an even more rare occurrence: a total eclipse of the sun. On March 20, 2015, the moon will move exactly between the Earth and sun, temporarily blocking out the disk. That eclipse will be visible from locations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and western North America.
But eager stargazers do not have to wait for next year. Take tomorrow’s opportunity to catch a beautiful and easily observable heavenly synchronization. As a plus, lunar eclipses pose no danger to your eyes (as solar eclipses do), and require no special viewing equipment. So get out and start observing—and please send us your photographs!
Thank you for your submissions. View the Slide Show »