Lunar Eclipse, Mars and Saturn, April 15, 2014

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This morning the moon is in eclipse. With it are Mars, Spica, and Saturn.  (Click the image to see it larger.)  Mars, just past opposition appears to the upper right of the moon.  Spica is 1.5 degrees to the lower right of the moon.   Saturn is near the stars Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali.  The next lunar eclipse occurs on the morning of October 8, although the moon is setting as the eclipse reaches its maximum.

SkyWatching April 2014

A total lunar eclipse is visible the night of April 14-15 across the western hemisphere. (NASA image)

Sun

There is a solar eclipse at new moon on April 29.  A ring eclipse is visible from parts of Antarctica and a partial eclipse in Australia and the southern Indian Ocean.

Throughout the month, the sun rises earlier each day as indicated in the table below.

Date Sunrise Sunset
April 1 6:34 a.m. 7:16 p.m.
April 15 6:10 a.m. 7:32 p.m.
April 30 5:48 a.m. 7:48 p.m.

Times are Central Daylight Time for Chicago, Illinois, from US Naval Observatory calculations.

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The chart above, constructed from US Naval Observatory data, shows the amount of daylight throughout the year with the month of April shaded in blue.  (Click the image to see it larger.)  The chart reflects the increasing amount of daylight shown in the table above.

Moon

Phase Date/Time Moonrise Moonset
First Quarter 04/07/14 (3:31 a.m.) 12:17 p.m. 2:40 a.m. (04/08)
Full Moon 04/15/14 (2:42 a.m.) 7:08 p.m. (04/14) 6:18 a.m. (04/15)
Last Quarter 04/22/14 (2:52 a.m.) 1:55 a.m. 12:34 p.m.
New Moon 04/29/14 (1:14 a.m.) 6:08 a.m. 8:27 p.m.

Times are Central Daylight Time for Chicago, Illinois, from US Naval Observatory calculations. (For mjb)

 

 

The events of the Lunar Eclipse of April 14-15, 2014. The best views are from 2:06 a.m. CDT to 3:24 a.m. (NASA Image)

The events of the Lunar Eclipse of April 14-15, 2014. The best views are from 2:06 a.m. CDT to 3:24 a.m. (NASA Image)

On the night of April 14-15, the moon moves into the Earth’s shadow.  Observers across the western hemisphere see a total lunar eclipse with the best part occurring from 2:06 a.m. through 3:24 a.m. on April 15.  No special equipment is necessary the eclipse.

Every planet and moon project a two-leveled, round shadow into space.  From the darker center of the shadow (umbra), the sun is completely blocked.  From the outer shadow (penumbra), the sun is partly blocked.   Because the moon shines from reflected sunlight, the moon loses its brightness when in passes into the umbra.  Sunlight from the earth’s atmosphere gets bent into the shadow causing the moon to gently glow in a coppery color as in the image at the top of this posting.

 

Here are the events of the eclipse:

April 14, 7:08 p.m. (CDT) — Moonrise
11:53 p.m. — The moon begins to move into the penumbra.  For most purposes, no change in the moon’s brightness is visible.
April 15
12:58 a.m. — The moon begins to move into the umbra and a partial eclipse begins.  During the next 68 minutes larger portions of the moon are darkened.
2:06 a.m. — The total lunar eclipse begins.
2:45 a.m. — The total eclipse is half-finished.  This is known as “greatest eclipse.”
3:24 a.m. — The total eclipse is finished.  A partial eclipse occurs in reverse with larger portions of the moon moving back into sunlight.
4:33 a.m. — The partial eclipse is finished and the moon is in the penumbra.  No change in the moon’s brightness is visible.
5:37 a.m. — The eclipse ends.
6:18 a.m. — Moonset

(All times are Central Daylight Time.  Make adjustments in the time zone for other regions.)

Morning Sky

Mercury hangs low in the eastern sky hidden in bright sunlight early in the morning.  On April 25, the speedy planet reaches the far side of the sun (superior conjunction) and moves into the evening sky next month.

Venus continues to dominate the morning sky.  Now after greatest elongation and its greatest separation from the sun, it rises about 1 hour, 45 minutes before the sun.  For more about Venus as a Morning Star, read our article.

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On the mornings of April 25 and April 26, the moon appears near Venus.  On April 25, the pair is 6 degrees apart; on the next morning they are 8 degrees apart.

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For experts:  On the morning of April 12, planet Neptune appears near Venus, less than one degree. While this is not naked eye, Neptune should appear as a bluish “star” to the lower right of Venus as seen through binoculars.  A modest size backyard telescope is needed to see the globe of Neptune.

Saturn rises before 10 p.m. throughout the month and it is well placed in the morning sky throughout the month.

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Two mornings after the lunar eclipse, the waning gibbous moon appears less than 2 degrees to the left of Saturn.

Evening Sky

Mars reaches opposition on April 8.  At this time, the planet rises in the eastern sky at sunset, appears in the southern sky at midnight, and sets in the western sky at sunrise.  Mars and the sun are on opposite parts of the sky.  Alternately, our planet is between Mars and the sun.  The planet is currently moving westward compared to the starry background.  For more about this evening appearance of Mars, read our article.

Jupiter appears high in the southern sky at sunset.  It is in front of the stars of Gemini.

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The moon appears near Jupiter on the evening of April 6.

The Visible Solar System

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The chart above shows the planets visible to the unaided eye on April 15, 2014, as seen from above.  (Click the image to see it larger.)  Jupiter is well placed in the evening sky.  Mars is entering the evening sky as it is just past opposition.  Saturn and Venus are in the morning sky as well as Mercury, but the speedy planet is moving toward superior conjunction.

The Morning Sky, March 26, 2014

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Brilliant Morning Star Venus sparkles in the southeastern sky this morning with the crescent moon nearby. (Click the images to see them larger.)  Venus is now rising less than two hours before the sun.  Tomorrow, the moon and Venus appear about 3.5 degrees apart in the southeastern sky.

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Meanwhile, Mars appears about 5 degrees above Spica.  Mars is retrograding (appearing to move west as compared to the starry background.)  Saturn is about 30 degrees to the upper left of Mars in the southern sky.

Our posts about the planets this month:

Venus, Mars, Saturn, and the Moon This Morning, March 19, 2014

DSC00809Morning star Venus sparkles brightly in the southeastern sky this morning. (Click the images to seem them larger.) It reaches its greatest separation from the sun during this morning appearance on Saturday.

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Earlier this morning, the moon made a compact grouping with Mars and Spica.  (The moon is overexposed in the image.)

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Meanwhile Saturn appears in the southern sky in the early morning hours near Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali.

Our posts about the planets this month:

Venus, Mars, and Saturn This Morning, March 14, 2014

DSC00774Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines from the southeastern sky this morning during early twilight.  (Click the images to see them larger.)  Venus rises about 2 hours, 10 minutes before the sun.

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Meanwhile, Saturn and Mars appear farther to the west.  Bright Mars is in the southwest about 5.5 degrees above the star Spica.  Mars is retrograding as Earth passes between the Mars and the sun next month.  Saturn is about 27 degrees to the upper left of Mars near the stars Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali.

Our posts about the planets this month:

 

Venus and Mars This Morning, March 13, 2014

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Brilliant Venus gleams as a Morning Star from the southeastern sky this morning during twilight. (Click the image to see them larger.)

DSC00765At the same hour, Mars appears in the southwestern sky.  It is growing in brightness as it appears at opposition and closest to us in less than a month.

Our posts about the planets this month:

Venus and Mars This Morning, March 6, 2014

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Venus sparkles in the southeastern sky this morning as seen from the Chicago area. (Click the images to see them larger.)  It continues as the bright Morning Star.  Later this month, reaches its greatest separation from the sun.

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Meanwhile, Mars shines in the southwestern sky near the star Spica.  This morning Mars is 6 degrees to the upper left of Spica.  Mars is moving westward (retrograde) compared to the starry background.  Later in the month, Mars passes Spica as it retrogrades.

Our posts about the planets this month:

March 2014 Sky Watching

Sun

Daylight increases by nearly 90 minutes during the month as the sun’s direct rays cross the equator moving north at 11:57 a.m. on March 20, 2014.  We advance our clock one hour on March 9 to start daylight time.  This will certainly bring back the discussion of year-round daylight saving time.  In 1974 and 1975 daylight saving time was started earlier in those years as a national response to an energy shortage.  Last year Allison Schrager suggested that the United States should adopt two time zones and eliminate daylight saving time.  Here is my commentary on the idea.

Moon Phases

Phase

Date/Time

Moonrise

Moonset

New Moon March 1 (2 a.m. CST) 6:19 a.m. 6:30 p.m.
First Quarter March 8 (7:27 a.m. CST) 10:50 a.m. 1:42 a.m. (03/09)
Full Moon March 16 (12:08 a.m. CDT) 7:16 p.m. CDT 7:14 a.m. CDT (3/17)
Last Quarter March 23 (7:46 p.m. CDT) 1:27 a.m. CDT 11:25 a.m. CDT
New Moon March 30 (12:45 p.m. CDT) 6:34 a.m. CDT 7:27 p.m. CDT

Times are Central Time (Standard or Daylight) for Chicago, Illinois, from US Naval Observatory calculations. (For mjb)

Evening Sky

Jupiter continues to dominate the evening sky.  It is well placed high in the southern skies at sunset.  Early in the month, look up high in the southern sky (as seen from northern latitudes); Jupiter’s current position is  near where the sun will appear at noon in late June.

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Jupiter appears high in the southern sky during the early evening hours of March 2014.

The chart above shows Jupiter against the starry background of Gemini with its bright star, Castor and Pollux, nearby.  Jupiter resumes its eastward motion compared to the starry background on March 6.

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A few nights later, a bright waxing gibbous moon appears near Jupiter.  On March 9, the moon is 7 degrees to the lower left of Jupiter.  The next evening the pair is separated by 9.5 degrees.

Mars rises in the southeast at 9:30 a.m. early in the month.  It appears near the star Spica.  On March 1, Mars is 6 degrees to the lower left of Spica.  While not vivid, Mars is distinctly reddish and Spica is blue.  The colors can be amplified while  looking through binoculars or a spotting scope.  Mars is over twice as bright as the star and will continue to brighten throughout the month.  The planet begins to move westward or retrograde compared to the starry background.  Mars passes 5 degrees above Spica on March 24. The progress of Mars’ retrograde loop is chronicled in this posting.

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On the evening of March 18, the waning gibbous moon, just 2.5 days past full, makes nearly an equilateral triangle with Mars and Spica.  The moon is separated from the other two objects by about 4 degrees with Mars and Spica separated by 5 degrees.

Saturn rises in the southeast before midnight early in the month and at 10:30 p.m. by month’s end.  It is about 30 degrees to the lower left of Mars near Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali in Libra.

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As the moon rises on the night of March 20/21, it appears 2 degrees below Saturn.

Morning Sky

Venus continues to outshine all other starry objects.  Early in the month, it rises in the southeast at about 4 a.m.  We continue to update its visibility with images at this posting.

Mercury makes a brief appearance during the month and is difficult to see.

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Before dawn on March 14, Mercury appears 19 degrees to the lower left of Venus.

venus_2014_gewVenus reaches its greatest elongation (angular separation) from the sun on March 22 and rises about 2 hours before the sun.

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On March 27, the waning crescent moon appears 3 degrees to the upper left of Venus.

Visible Solar System

sol_sys_140315The image above shows the planets visible without a telescope (naked eye planets) on March 15.  (Click the image to see it larger.)  Jupiter is the lone planet in the evening sky.  Mars is near the midnight line, meaning that it is approaching its nearest point to Earth.  Meanwhile, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Mercury are visible in the morning sky.

Venus and the Moon This Morning, February 26, 2014

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Venus and the waning crescent moon make a spectacular pairing this morning in the predawn sky as seen from the Chicago area. The moon is 4.3 degrees to the lower left of this brilliant Morning Star.  (Click the image to see it larger.)  The night portion of the moon is gently illuminated by sunlight reflected from our planet’s surface creating an “Earthshine” effect on the moon.

Venus and the Moon This Morning, February 25, 2014

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Venus and the waning crescent moon shine this morning during late twilight as seen from the Chicago area. (Click the image to see it larger.) Tomorrow morning, the crescent moon appears to the lower left of Venus.

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