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Total Lunar Eclipse: April 4, 2015

Geographic Region: Asia, Australia, Pacific Ocean, North America, South America

The first lunar eclipse of the year occurs at the lunar orbit's ascending node in Virgo.  The apparent diameter of the Moon is smaller than average since the eclipse occurs 3.0 days after apogee (April 01 at 12:59 UT).  This is the third of four consecutive total lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015.

The Moon's orbital trajectory takes it through the northern half of Earth's umbral shadow.  In this particular case, the entire Moon barely makes it into the umbral shadow leading to a very short total eclipse lasting just 4 1/2 minutes.  A map illustrating worldwide visibility of the event is shown above.  The times of the major eclipse phases are listed as follows.


Penumbral Eclipse Begins:   09:01:25 UT
Partial Eclipse Begins:    10:15:46 UT 
Total Eclipse Begins:    11:58:01 UT 
Greatest Eclipse:   12:00:16 UT
Total Eclipse Ends:    12:02:32 UT 
Partial Eclipse Ends:    13:44:48 UT 
Penumbral Eclipse Ends:   14:59:03 UT


At the instant of greatest eclipse (12:00:16 UT) the Moon lies at the zenith for a point in the South Pacific near the Solomon Islands.  The umbral eclipse magnitude peaks at 1.0007 as the Moon's northern limb passes less than 2 arc-seconds inside the northern edge of the umbral shadow.  This is an extraordinary test test case for a marginally total eclipse.

In contrast, the Moon's southern limb lies 9.4 arc-minutes from the shadow center.  As a result, the northern half of the Moon will appear much brighter than the southern half because the Moon samples a large range of umbral depths during the brief total phase.  The exact brightness distribution in the umbra is difficult to predict, so observers are encouraged to estimate the Danjon value at mid-totality.  It may also be necessary to assign different Danjon values to different portions of the Moon (e.g., north vs. south).

During totality, the spring constellations are well placed for viewing so a number of bright stars (and planets) can be used for magnitude comparisons.  Spica (m = +1.05) is the most conspicuous star lying 10° southeast of the eclipsed Moon.  The brilliant blue color of Spica makes for a striking contrast with the crimson Moon.  Arcturus (m = +0.15) is 33° to the north, Saturn (m = +0.3) is 51° to the east, Jupiter (m = -2.3) is 61° to the west, and Antares (m = +1.07) is 56° to the southeast.

The entire event is visible from the Pacific Ocean, Alaska, eastern Australia, New Zealand and Japan.  Observers in western North and South America miss the early stages of the eclipse because they occur before moonrise.  Likewise parts of central and eastern Asia experience moonset before the eclipse ends.  None of the eclipse is visible from Europe or Africa.

The April 04 eclipse is the 30th eclipse of Saros 132.  This series began on 1492 May 12 and is composed of 71 lunar eclipses in the following sequence: 8 penumbral, 21 partial, 12 total, 11 partial, and 19 penumbral eclipses.  In this context, the April 04 eclipse is the first total eclipse in the series, which helps to explain the barely total nature of the eclipse.  The last eclipse of the series is on 2754 June 26.


Eclipse map and predictions courtesy of Fred Espenak - NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.
For more information on solar and lunar eclipses, see Fred Espenak's Eclipse Home Page:






Lunar Eclipses for Students and Beginners!

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