Many Millersville students might have woken up to a dazzling sight on Saturday morning—the moon turning briefly from pink to orange.
Around 7:58 a.m., the moon slipped fully in to Earth’s shadow, starting a total lunar eclipse for five minutes. NASA has stated that it will be the shortest lunar eclipse of the century.
What is unique about this lunar eclipse, however, is that it was the third of a four part series called the “Blood Moon” tetrad, which began last April and will end this September.
The celestial body took on a burnt-orange tint in the minutes before, during and after the total eclipse, giving the moon the appearance that earns total eclipses the “Blood Moon” nickname. Many witnessed different shades of this Blood Moon, ranging from shades of deep blood red, rusty orange, pale yellow, grayish blue and white. Collectively, the different colors created a stunning “rainbow” on the moon’s surface, according to some observers.
For those of us living east of the Mississippi River, we were only able to see the eclipse for a few minutes. Watchers living in the western US, Australia, Oceania, and Asia had a clear view of the eclipse.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is fully submerged in the core of the Earth’s shadow, called the umbra. The outer ring of the shadow is called the penumbra. When the moon passes into the penumbra, it darkens the surface of the moon, making it look as if a “bite” has been taken from the lunar surface. “Totality” occurs when the moon is completely submerged in the umbra, and takes on a deep red hue.
Why red? Because Earth’s atmosphere is filtering out most of the blue light.
According to astronomer Bob Berman, even though the moon was technically submerged in shadow, some sunlight refracted or bent around the edge of the Earth and illuminated the moon’s surface.
“If we didn’t know better, we’d say this isn’t totality yet,” Berman said, referring to the fact that the moon was never entirely covered in red light.
Berman said it was the “weirdest” lunar eclipse totality he’d ever seen. He said that beauty of the lunar eclipse transcends the popular “blood moon” phrase repeated in the media.
“It’s much more complex and much more interesting, visually sophisticated, than a single word can capture. It’s very interesting,” Berman said. He later added, “I’ll never forget this eclipse.”
For anyone who missed the Apr. 4 eclipse, the next and final Blood Moon of this tetrad will occur Sept. 28, 2015.