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5 Sky Events This Week: Full Lunar Eclipse and Lord of the Rings

Saturn and its majestic rings are on full display in this Cassini mosaic image. This week the lord of the rings will be easy to find next to our own moon in the evening sky. Credit: Mattias Malmer,  NASA
Saturn and its majestic rings are on full display in this Cassini mosaic image. This week the “lord of the rings” will be easy to find next to our own moon in the evening sky. Credit: Mattias Malmer, NASA

This is a big week even for the most amateur of sky-watchers, with a rare full lunar eclipse and Mars getting as close as it ever does to Earth.

Moon shadow play. The moon will appear to be orange-red late Monday night and early Tuesday morning as it undergoes a total eclipse, the first visible from the Western Hemisphere in more than two years.

The first hints of Earth’s shadow taking a bite out of the moon’s silvery disk happens Tuesday at 1:58 a.m. EDT (Monday at 10:58 p.m. PDT). The celestial show will be visible across both American continents and most of the Pacific basin. (Related: “Why People See Faces in the Moon.”)

To minimize interruptions to sleep, consider catching the height of the totality, when the moon will be in the deepest part of Earth’s shadow and at its most colorful, which occurs at 3:46 a.m. EDT (12:46 a.m. PDT). (Related: “Lunar Eclipse Myths From Around the World.”)

Photographing the eclipse calls for a digital camera that you can mount on a tripod and set with a remote timer. Include a foreground object like a house, trees, or hills to add perspective to your shots. And try using multiple exposure lengths, from a fraction of a second to a few seconds long.

Get the most out of this celestial event by reading my viewer’s guide to the eclipse.

The full moon will turn orange-red in color during a total lunar eclipse as it enters the Earth's dark shadow cone. Credit: Sky and Telescope
The full moon will turn orange-red during a total lunar eclipse as it enters the Earth’s dark shadow cone. Credit: Sky and Telescope

Magnificent Mars. Not to be outdone by the eclipse, the red planet is at its closest to Earth on Monday night. A week after being at opposition—which is theoretically its closest point to Earth at 57.2 million miles (92 million kilometers)—it’s even closer on Monday due to the combined effect of both planets’ relative position to each other in their slightly elongated orbits. Earth is heading towards its most distant point from the sun while Mars is heading towards its closest point to the sun. On Monday night you can find it perched just above the moon. (See “Watch Mars Invade Our Sky: Biggest and Brightest Since 2007.”)

Celestial trio. Face the eastern sky after nightfall on Tuesday, April 15, for a straight alignment of orange-hued Mars, blue-white Spica—the brightest star in the constellation Virgo—and the silvery full moon. Amazing to think that these three objects are not only vastly different in origin but also in distance. While the moon is 248,550 miles (400,000 kilometers) away from Earth, Spica is 250 light-years away.

This skychart shows a celestial alignment between our moon, neighboring planet and distant star on the late evening of April 15. By the next night the moon will park itself next to Saturn. Credit: SkySafari
This sky chart shows a celestial alignment between our moon, our neighboring planet, and a distant star on the late evening of April 15. By the next night the moon will park itself next to Saturn. Credit: SkySafari

Moon and Saturn. Look for the waning moon to climb the evening sky on Wednesday, April 16, accompanied by Saturn as a close companion. The moon will appear only 2 degrees from Saturn, a separation equal to the width of two fingers held at arm’s length.

Lucky sky-watchers in the southern part of South America actually get to see the moon eclipse, or occult, Saturn. Here’s a detailed map and timetable of the occultation.

Lyrids begin. Look for a slow trickle of meteors to begin in the predawn hours of Thursday, April 17, signaling the beginning of the annual minor meteor shower known as the Lyrids.

Each shooting star appears to radiate out from its namesake constellation, Lyra, the Harp, which rises in the eastern sky in the predawn hours. From a half dozen shooting stars this week, expect the hourly rate of shooting stars to climb until it peaks, with the rate doubling by April 22.

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on TwitterFacebook, and his website.


  1. rakshanda
    April 16, 2014, 10:11 am

    Reminds me of the Creator and His miracles.

    April 15, 2014, 9:33 pm


  3. Viviana
    April 15, 2014, 6:35 pm

    Hello – Will the celestial trio be visible in the North America? If so, around what time should we expect to see the alignment?

  4. joyce schmitz
    April 15, 2014, 3:01 pm

    I want to hear more.

  5. Paula Forrester
    Ssn Diego, California
    April 15, 2014, 12:56 pm

    Great article! I enjoyed it immensely !

  6. Paula Forrester
    San Diego, California.
    April 15, 2014, 12:55 pm

    Great article! Thanks for sharing!

    April 15, 2014, 12:00 pm

    very lucky to see wonder today

  8. stefanos Kondilas
    April 15, 2014, 10:33 am


  9. Ima Ryma
    April 15, 2014, 6:21 am

    Bible verse says the moon will turn
    To blood to mark the coming time
    When unrepentant sinners burn
    In hell and all the faithful climb
    To salvation in heaven’s bliss.
    But science has shown humankind,
    A lunar eclipse explains this,
    Sun and Earth and moon all aligned.
    The moon is shadowed by the Earth,
    But still is tinted in sunlight,
    So appearing reddish. Tiz worth
    Families taking in the sight.

    Look my children to the blood moon,
    And know it is your bedtime soon.

  10. ashvin raghoobur
    April 15, 2014, 5:16 am

    could we see it from Mauritius island we are found in the indian ocean

  11. Elba Sierra
    April 15, 2014, 3:53 am

    Impressive reddish moon…I was reading your article while watching this magnificent event. Interesting what you wrote specially for a zero experienced sky watcher as me. Thank you!

  12. Gail Setterfield
    Columbus, Ohio
    April 15, 2014, 3:19 am

    There’s no Blood Moon here, too much cloud cover.

  13. litz
    April 15, 2014, 3:15 am

    Pls send us current info about skywatching

  14. Alexis Robledo 17
    April 14, 2014, 11:10 pm

    That is so cool, I used my telescope to watch it.

  15. Abhijeet Panda
    Balasore, Odisha, India
    April 14, 2014, 10:34 pm

    I think all the seriese of NET GEO CHANNALS are the best channals in world.

  16. MadamWaew
    Lop Buri Thailand
    April 14, 2014, 9:25 pm

    At home. I can not see the moon because cloudy.

  17. Jalal
    Savar, dhaka
    April 14, 2014, 8:32 pm

    Valo lage.

  18. Jeanne Micheau
    Magala; Calif
    April 14, 2014, 8:19 pm

    Very exciting I hope I can at least witness .! Wish i could capture it on a picture

  19. Henry Balingcongan
    New York , NY
    April 14, 2014, 8:08 pm

    Waiting at Fort Tryon, cloudy skies preventing me from getting a shot. 8:08pm

  20. Claire Bowler
    United Kingdom
    April 14, 2014, 6:58 pm

    How and when do I see it from the UK??

  21. Robbie
    April 14, 2014, 6:08 pm

    Hi what is the best time to see the red moon eclipse in Ireland?


  22. malcolm
    April 14, 2014, 5:24 pm

    being invole with astro club we are busy with sky viewing all week

  23. ratoon
    April 14, 2014, 5:23 pm

    I cant see the moon tonight 🙁