A total lunar eclipse that takes place on the night of a full moon and, later this month, the Lyrid meteor shower.


What's Up for April. A total lunar eclipse!

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

On April 4 be on the lookout for a total lunar eclipse.

A lunar eclipse takes place on the night of a full moon, when the moon is on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun and the moon passes into Earth's shadow. This can occur only when the Sun, Earth and moon are all aligned. An eclipse begins when the moon first moves into the less-dense part of Earth's shadow--what astronomers call the penumbra--then into the deepest shadow--or umbra.

The April 4 lunar eclipse covers the Pacific and can be seen from parts of Australia, New Zealand and eastern Asia to the western parts of North America. Here are the times for the various stages of the lunar eclipse on the West Coast of the United States. On the East Coast the eclipse begins near dawn, and the moon will set before the eclipse has ended. The total eclipse--the brief phase when the entire surface of the moon is obscured--will last about 12 minutes. For those on the West Coast, the eclipse will end at 6:45 in the morning.

Later in April you can enjoy other ways of seeing the moon. It pairs with the Pleiades and Venus on the 20th and 21st and passes below bright Jupiter on the 25th to the 27th.

Another sky treat this month is the Lyrid meteor shower, which peaks in the early morning of April 23. The constellation Lyra, the point in the sky where the meteors appear to radiate from, will be above the horizon before midnight and high overhead by dawn local time for Northern Hemisphere observers. You'll see more meteors when the radiant is higher: between 4 a.m. and dawn. Based on observations from the past two years, you can expect to see 15 to 20 meteors per hour. Perhaps more!

Information about our solar system objects can be found at solarsystem dot nasa dot gov.

And you can learn about all of NASA's missions at w w w dot nasa dot gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

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