Eclipses Galore for April

On Tuesday 15th of April, there will be a total lunar eclipse, and Melbourne is in a prime position to see it! The moon will rise already in full eclipse at around 5:50pm, and will stay fully eclipsed for about half an hour. The forecast calls for clear skies, so anyone should be able to go outside, look to the sky, and see it.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes directly between the Sun and the Moon, so the shadow of the Earth appears on the Moon’s surface. Because our atmosphere scatters the light in a specific way, the resulting shadow will be red, giving rise to the term “blood moon” for a total lunar eclipse.

There is actually another eclipse later in the month: a partial solar eclipse on the 29th of April! This is the more familiar type, where the Moon passes in front of the Sun, blocking out a portion. Although it’s generally not safe to look directly at a solar eclipse, you can use special glasses or pinhole cameras. Sometimes, even the light passing through leaves in trees acts like a pinhole camera, and you can get hundreds of tiny crescent sun shapes on the ground, as in these photos.

Scienceworks has a blog post about it which goes into a bit more detail.

Finally, the planet Mars is currently the closest it will be to Earth for a while, so if you have a telescope, bring it out and have a look. If you want to learn more about Mars, come to our new class Mars or Bust! Taught by me 🙂

The image of the moon above is borrowed and edited, with thanks, from Brian Jeffery Beggerly under a Creative Commons licence.