North Americans Will Have Ringside View of Total Lunar Eclipse; NASA’s LRO Will Enter Darkness Due to Eclipse [VIDEO]

First Posted: Apr 10, 2014 06:57 AM EDT

As millions of sky watchers eagerly await the April 15th total lunar eclipse, first of the two total lunar eclipses of this year, North Americans will have the privilege of viewing the eclipse full.

NASA announced that the stargazers in North America will be able to see the total lunar eclipse on April 15th as the western hemisphere will be facing the moon..

 This eclipse will give North Americans a rare opportunity to view the eclipse from start to finish. The eclipse is expected to start at 2.00 a.m. EDT and last for three hours. Interestingly, this event is going to coincide with nigh time in North America, making it easy for them  to view the lunar changes taking place.

"Sometimes they'll happen and you'll have to be somewhere else on Earth to see them," Noah Petro, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter deputy project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md, said in a statement. "Most [residents] of the continental United States will be able to see the whole thing."

A total lunar eclipse takes place when the Earth, moon and Sun are in a perfect celestial alignment. As the moon crawls toward the Earth's partial shadow called penumbra, a dark shadow can be seen covering the moon, giving the sky watchers an illusion that the moon is changing phases quickly.

At 3.45 a.m. EDT the eclipse will peak when the moon will come into the Earth's shadow. It is a special treat and does not happen always.

"It's a projection of all the Earth's sunsets and sunrises onto the moon," Petro said. "It's a very subtle effect, and if any part of the moon is illuminated in the sun, you can't really see it."

Despite the enthusiasm among the stargazers, NASA is extremely cautious of its robotic spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), that is currently orbiting the Moon. The team will closely monitor the eclipse as during this event the spacecraft will enter into darkness for a long period. They hope that the spacecraft is not affected much with the eclipse, as its batteries require sunlight to charge and keep moving.

 "The spacecraft will be going straight from the moon's shadow to the Earth's shadow while it orbits during the eclipse," Petro said.

Since the spacecraft has to pass through the entire shadow twice before the end of the eclipse, the team hopes that the orbiter makes it through this celestial event without any snag. The team is taking all the possible precautions and will turn off the instrument and monitor the orbiter every few hours when it's visible from Earth.

"For quite a while, people in LRO have been analysing what's going to happen during this eclipse," Petro said. "We'll make sure the world knows LRO survived with no problems."


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