Fred Espinak, NASA
The total lunar eclipse occurring the night of October 7-8, 2014, promises to be as spectacular as the one above, which occurred in April.

Video: Stunning Lunar Eclipse Turns Hunter’s Moon Blood Red

ICTMN Staff
10/7/14

It’s the first full moon after the autumnal equinox, and this year it is blood red. Aptly, it’s the Hunter’s Moon as well, occurring as it does in October.

Turtle Island dwellers have front row seats to one of the year’s most spectacular sky sights. It’s the second of the year and in a tetrad, or group of four, lunar eclipses happening this year and next.

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"It promises to be a stunning sight, even from the most light-polluted cities," said Fred Espenak, an eclipse specialist at NASA, in a statement. "I encourage everyone, especially families with curious children, to go out and enjoy the event."

East Coast Turtle Islanders will catch the spectacle just before the moon slips below the horizon, with totality starting at around 6:25 a.m. But there is much more to see before that, as the moon enters Mother Earth’s shadow beginning at around 4:45 a.m., according to Sky and Telescope. That’s when the penumbra, or outside edge, of Earth’s shadow first starts edging onto the moon. A half-hour later, at 5:15 a.m., the partial eclipse begins. That is what’s visible to northeastern Turtle Island, but much of the rest of the continent will see the full eclipse. A full guide to the timing of each phase is available there and at Earthsky.org, as well as at Space.com, which describes each stage in detail, and Astronomy.com.

“From the east coast of North America, totality begins at 6:25 am EDT,” NASA said in its statement. “The moon will be hanging low over the western horizon, probably swollen by the famous moon illusion into a seemingly-giant red orb, briefly visible before daybreak. West Coast observers are even better positioned. The moon will be high in the sky as totality slowly plays out between 3:25 am and 4:24 am PDT.”

This is happening at just about the same instant as the full moon, which reaches its peak plumpness on October 8 at 6:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Earthsky.com tells us.

“Watch the full-looking moon on the night of October 7-8 rise in the east as the sun goes down,” Earthsky.org said. “Like any full moon, the Hunter’s Moon will shine all night long. It’ll soar highest in the sky around midnight and will set in the west around sunrise.”

Why is the eclipsed moon blood red? It’s because of the way Earth’s atmosphere refracts the sunlight behind it. Anyone ambitious enough to pull out binoculars or a small telescope may get a glimpse of turquoise, which is the same effect, though on the ozone, NASA said. It will appear as a “soft blue fringe” ringing the redder shadow of Earth.

"During a lunar eclipse, most of the light illuminating the moon passes through the stratosphere where it is reddened by scattering,” said Atmospheric scientist Richard Keen of the University of Colorado in the NASA statement. “However, light passing through the upper stratosphere penetrates the ozone layer, which absorbs red light and actually makes the passing light ray bluer."

The NASA video below explains that, and much more.

And there’s more! Space.com tells us that some people might catch a glimpse of the setting, eclipsed moon and the rising sun opposite it, simultaneously. This is not because they will both be there, but because of the way Earth’s atmosphere refracts the image. It’s known as a selenelion, and it’s a “phenomenon that celestial geometry says cannot happen,” Space.com said. “And indeed, during a lunar eclipse, the sun and moon are exactly 180 degrees apart in the sky. But thanks to Earth's atmosphere, the images of both the sun and moon are apparently lifted above the horizon by atmospheric refraction. This allows people on Earth to see the sun for several extra minutes before it actually has risen and the moon for several extra minutes after it has actually set.”

Those east of the Mississippi River have the best shot at seeing this, if it happens.

Those whose skies are cloudy can catch the full eclipse online at the Slooh Space camera, whose broadcast starts at 5 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. One can also tune in at Space.com as well.

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