Monday's eclipse opens a tetrad

Sequence of 4 total blockages of moon unique in 2004-32

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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The first in a quartet of total lunar eclipses — the only such quartet in a span of 28 years — takes place Monday.

The total phase of Monday's eclipse will last 78 minutes.

Viewers might be able to detect a very slight duskiness on the moon's eastern side at about 10:30 p.m. Monday, said Stan Seeberg, with Vancouver Sidewalk Astronomers. If not, it likely will be observable by 10:45 p.m., he said.

At 10:58 p.m., the partial eclipse begins as the moon moves into the Earth's shadow, or umbra.

There will also be some color to the event, the same effect that tints our sunrises and sunsets, Seeberg said.

"Our atmosphere bends the longer red rays of sunlight into the shadow, giving the moon an overall reddish color, perhaps mixed with orange or brown," Seeberg said.

Totality begins just past midnight, at 12:07 a.m. Tuesday; total eclipse ends at 1:25 a.m.; and the partial eclipse ends at 2:33 a.m.

"Although the event will be easy to see and appreciate with just your unaided vision, binoculars and telescopes will make it particularly interesting," Seeberg said. "Through a telescope, you can see craters and other lunar features gradually darken."

According to a NASA eclipse bulletin, this will be the first total lunar eclipse since Dec. 10, 2011.

The Monday event will be the first of four consecutive lunar eclipses that are all total, called an eclipse tetrad. For two years, a lunar eclipse will occur over the Western Hemisphere every six months. The other three will be on Oct. 8; April 4, 2015; and Sept. 28, 2015.

The last time that happened — a series of four lunar eclipses with no partials — was 2003-2004. It won't happen again until 2032-2033, according to NASA.

Mars will also be one of several guest stars, so to speak, in Monday's sky show. The Red Planet will be within 57 million miles of Earth, its closest approach since January 2007.

Mars will appear to the right of the moon at eclipse time, Seeberg said. A bright blue star, Spica, will be close to the totally eclipsed moon.

Saturn will be to the left of the eclipsed moon and brighter than Spica. Jupiter also will be visible about 20 minutes after sunset. Face south and look nearly overhead and Jupiter will appear as a bright star, Seeberg said.

Monday's eclipse will be the first of four eclipses in 2014. In addition to the two lunar eclipses will be two solar eclipses (when the moon's shadow falls on Earth). The first solar eclipse is April 29; the second is Oct. 23.