Set those alarms and get ready to see an unusually beautiful moon in tonight’s skies! The first total lunar eclipse of 2014 will occur overnight on April 14 – 15 and mark the beginning of an eclipse tetrad – four back-to-back total lunar eclipses. Over the next 18 months, eclipses will occur at roughly six-month intervals with future eclipses on October 8, 2014, April 4, 2015 and September 28, 2015.
Perhaps in part due to their somewhat ominous name, blood moons are thought by some to be harbingers of doom. Actually though, the name derives from the moon’s dramatic reddish-orange color during the eclipse rather than from any link to prophecies of disaster.
Typically, there are about two lunar eclipses per year. Some of them — penumbral eclipses — are so subtle, they are vaguely visible and go greatly unnoticed. Other eclipses cast a partial shadow on the moon but lend it none of that brilliant sunset hue. According to experts at NASA, lunar eclipses — penumbral, partial or umbral — occur in random order, so getting four umbral eclipses in a row is comparable to drawing a poker hand of four of a kind.
“The most unique thing about the 2014-2015 tetrad is that all of them are visible for all or parts of the USA,” longtime NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak said in a prepared statement.
The total lunar eclipse will begin at about 2 AM Eastern Daylight Time ( EDT) and last about 3.5 hours. The moon will be fully eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow by 3 AM EDT.