By James Pugsley
(YELLOWKNIFE, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES) Skywatchers across North America and across the North are hoping for clear overnight conditions on April 14 as the Earth, Moon and Sun align for another dazzling total eclipse of the moon. The last total lunar eclipse visible from the North occurred on December 21, 2010.
When to Watch
Partial Eclipse Begins: 23:58 p.m. MDT (April 14)
Total Eclipse Begins: 01:07 a.m. MDT (April 15)
Greatest Eclipse: 01:46 a.m. MDT
Total Eclipse Ends: 02:25 MDT
Partial Eclipse Ends: 03:33 MDT
Beginning just before midnight on Monday, the moon will enter Earth’s shadow, reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches the surface of the moon. As the moon travels further into Earth’s shadow the lunar disc will lose its blue-white tones and adopt a reddish hue. Approximately one hour into the eclipse most of the moon will be covered and the sky will begin to reveal faint stars and auroras, setting the stage for the darkest moment of the night at 1:46 a.m. MDT on April 15. At the moment of greatest eclipse, light conditions will be similar to a new moon phase and the brownish-red moon will take a back seat to the stars (and hopefully auroras).
About 45 minutes later the process will clearly be in reverse. The moon will begin to brighten as it makes its slow departure from behind the Earth. Bit by bit light will return to the lunar disc and at approximately 03:30 a.m. MDT the show is over.
For those wondering just how dark the sky will be at totality, here is a short time-lapse movie showing how light conditions changed over the course of three hours on December 21, 2010.
Watch For Auroras!
If you plan to stay up, watch for periods of increased auroral activity throughout the eclipse and expect to see faint auroras that you wouldn’t have seen without some celestial help. Monday’s aurora forecast is MODERATE, with peak activity expected in the hours before and after local midnight. The good news for aurora fans is Earth’s magnetic field is still feeling the effects of a coronal hole high speed solar wind stream that triggered a minor geomagnetic storm over the weekend. So, if your goal is to find and/or film faint auroras during the eclipse, it’s a promising forecast – there is a good chance that Northern sky observers will see a steady flow of particles pouring into the atmosphere for the duration of the eclipse. If the geomagnetic field conditions are particularly unsettled near midnight (which is normal at 62 degrees North latitude / 68 degrees magnetic latitude) watch for auroral activity to increase overhead and a possible burst of auroras across the southern sky early in the eclipse. If field conditions are calm, or if there was a burst of auroral activity before midnight, faint auroras will be visible overhead and/or to the North throughout the eclipse.
Enjoy the Show!
To watch the eclipse and auroras above Yellowknife in real time, check out AuroraMAX Live!