In what could be called a rare cosmic treat, sky gazers and astronomers will be able to see the moon turning a bright red on Wednesday.
Sequels are usually a disappointment. But not this time, not with this heavenly body, scientists say.
If you live in the western half of the United States, you’ll have a front-row seat for the show — a lunar eclipse that will turn the moon a burnt reddish orange for about an hour early Wednesday. It is sad that not everyone across the world will get to see the near impossible natural wonder, when during the selenelion or horizontal eclipse both the sun and the moon will be visible on both horizons for one brief moment.
Because of the special light show, it’s called a blood moon and it’s the second one of the year.
The full eclipse will start at 6:25 a.m. ET, NASA says, and last until 7:24 a.m. ET.
This is the second blood moon in a sequence of four. The first in the series took place in April. The blood moon on 8 October 2014 will be much bigger and better than the one seen in April.
Lunar Eclipse October 2014- A Rare Phenomenon
Though Hollywood would want to dub this series of four Bloodmoons as a ‘quadrilogy’, scientists call it a ‘tetrad’.
In the 21st century, there will be many tetrads, but look back a few centuries, and you’ll find the opposite phenomenon, NASA says.
Before the dawn of the 20th century, there was a 300-year period when there were none, says NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak. Zero.
That would mean that neither Sir Isaac Newton, Mozart, Queen Anne, George Washington, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln nor their contemporaries ever had a chance to see such a sequence.
Lunar eclipses — whatever the variety — occur in random order, NASA says. Getting four total eclipses in a row, especially blood moons, is like drawing a rare lunar poker hand of four of a kind.
When you consider that the sun and the moon are on precisely opposite sides of our planet during a lunar eclipse, it may seem geometrically impossible for an earthly observer to see both celestial bodies at the same time. However, the refraction effect means light can be bent enough to place the sun on one side of the sky, and the darkened moon on the other.
This effect is known as ‘selenelion’ — pronounced “sell-a-NELL-ion,” to rhyme with “hellion” (though “sell-a-NEEL-ion” may be an alternate). To see it, you have to be at just the right place at the right time. For Americans, that’s when the moon is setting and the sun is rising.
The next lunar eclipse is scheduled for April 4, 2015.