What to look for during Monday’s total lunar eclipse

Photo: Bishop Museum

On April 14, Hawaii star gazers will be able to view the first total lunar eclipse visible anywhere on earth in more than two years.

The partial phase of the lunar eclipse is expected to start at 7:58 p.m., when the moon crosses into the earth’s shadow. Then at 9:06 p.m., the total phase of the eclipse begins. For the next 70 minutes, the earth will be directly between the sun and the moon.

Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Buke XLII, Helu 5, Aoao 8. Feberuari 1, 1907.
‘The moon like a red ball’
Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Buke XLII, Helu 5, Aoao 8. Feberuari 1, 1907.

“Total lunar eclipses are one of the most visually interesting sights in astronomy, as the full moon starts to look like a bitten cookie and eventually turns dark or red as the total phase sets in,” said Mike Shanahan, planetarium director at Bishop Museum. “Sometimes it turns coppery, or a deep red shade, and sometimes vanishes entirely.”

The phenomenon, which can cause the moon to appear reddish in color, is also known as a “blood moon.”

“Sunlight is made up of all the colors of the rainbow,” Shanahan explained. “The shorter wavelengths of blue light are blocked by the earth’s atmosphere. The longer wavelengths of red light, however, are able to pass through the earth’s atmosphere and continue on to hit the moon.”

At 10:24 p.m., the moon will make its way out of the earth’s shadow with the eclipse ending at 11:33 p.m.

“One advantage of a lunar eclipse like this is that you have several hours to check it out, with the total phase lasting much more than an hour,” Shanahan said. “The other advantage of a lunar eclipse is that it does not require a good dark location like a meteor shower does. This sight should be visible anywhere you can see the sky.”

Image from Fred Espenak at http://www.mreclipse.com/
Image from Fred Espenak at http://www.mreclipse.com/

Bishop Museum will hold a viewing event on the Great Lawn from 8-11:30 p.m. and volunteer-experts with the Hawaiian Astronomical Society will be on hand with telescopes. Special lunar eclipse programs will be held in the planetarium every half-hour and a 12.5-inch diameter telescope in the observatory will be available for moon watching. Tickets cost $8 for general admission, $6 for children ages 4-12 and free for museum members and can be reserved online.

University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy is also holding two viewing parties for the lunar eclipse from 7-11:30 p.m. at Kapiolani Park and Kahuku Public Library.

The next total eclipse of the moon will occur on October 7-8 with the partial phase starting at 11:14 p.m. on October 7 and the total phase running from 12:25-1:14 a.m. on October 8.

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