Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

April 13, 2014

Lunar eclipse to occur early Tuesday morning

ATHENS — For some cultures, it’s a portent of doom, but for people interested in astronomy, a change in the moon coming Tuesday morning will be a sight well worth seeing.

A lunar eclipse will begin at approximately 2 a.m. Tuesday, and become a total eclipse by 3 a.m., Dr. Alice Hawthorne, associate professor of physics at Concord University, said. Hawthorne also teaches astronomy at Concord, and she hoped to be out with her students and telescopes Monday morning.

“A good source for it is Sky & Telescope, and spaceweather.com,” she advised. “They’re going to broadcast it, so people can watch it even when the weather’s bad. The only issue is getting up early in the morning.”

Cloudy skies are expected early Monday morning as the moon passes through Earth’s shadow, with clouds increasing as sunrise approaches, said meteorologist Patrick Wilson with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg,Va. How soon the clouds arrive will depend on how fast the weather front approaches southern West Virginia that day. Rain is not expected until 8 or 9 a.m.

Lunar eclipses are sometimes dubbed a “blood moon” because they have a reddish tint.

“It first goes into a partial eclipse stage. When you have that, it looks like part of the moon is red or dark, and the rest is the creamy white, typical moon color,” Hawthorne said.

Dust in the atmosphere and other factors give a lunar eclipse a reddish tint.

“When the sunlight scatters and bends in our atmosphere, that can make the red color appear,” she said.

Three other lunar eclipses are expected this year.

“I think the last one was in 2011, at least for our region of the world,” Hawthorne said. “They usually come in groups.”

The next lunar eclipse is expected on Oct. 8 this year, followed by ones on April 9, 2015  and Sept. 8, 2015, she stated.

“This one is exciting to us and North America,” Hawthorne said of Monday’s lunar eclipse. “It’s visible to most of the United States and the continent.”

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