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Stargazers all over the world are getting ready to experience the first of four total lunar eclipses that are scheduled to occur before the end of 2015. The 'tetrad' lunar eclipses are a rare phenomenon - one encountered only seven times, this century. What makes it even more special is that all four eclipses will be visible to the residents of the United States.
The first of the two that will occur this year, can be seen in its entirety by both North and South Americans. In the U.S., the celestial show that is expected to last a full 78 minutes, will begin on April 15th at 12.53 am (EDT). This is when the moon will begin to enter Earth's outer shadow. However, it will be another 50 minutes, before the eclipse starts to become apparent to sky watchers. At about 1.58 am (EDT), fans will start to observe the partial eclipse as the Earth's dark shadow or umbra, starts to move across the face of the full moon.
The gradual transition will continue until 3.06 am (EDT), when the eclipse reaches complete totality. This is usually a mesmerizing sight when the moon transforms into a coppery glow, thanks to the reflection of the sunlight creeping through, from the curvature of the earth. To those watching the event unfold with binoculars or even a small telescope, it will appear as though the moon is glowing from its own light.
If that is not magical enough, Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo and one of the 21 brightest stars in the sky, will also be making an appearance right next to moon. The last time this happened was in 1968 and the next time will not be until 2510, when Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo, will make an appearance during a total lunar eclipse. By 5.33 am, the earth will finally glide away, restoring the moon back to its full glory and allowing stargazers to go home to get some well-deserved rest.
All in all, about a billion people all over the world, will be able to get at least a partial view of this natural phenomenon that never fails to mesmerize lunar fans. Unfortunately, people living in Asia and some parts of Europe will have a hard time seeing the April 15th eclipse, because it will occur during their daytime and therefore be obscured by the bright sun. But they will have a few more opportunities. That's because this is only the first of the tetrad - There will be one more this year on October 8th, 2014, and then two in 2015 - on April 4th and September 28th. So keep those telescopes handy!
The eclipse of the moon as it is often called, occurs when earth gets in the way of the sun and the moon. As you probably know, the moon makes no light of its own - it simply reflects the light from the sun. Therefore, when our planet gets in between the two, its shadow falls on the moon, resulting in what we call, lunar eclipse. Total eclipses of the moon are relatively rare because in order for them to occur, there has to be a full moon and, the sun, earth and moon all have to be aligned perfectly. The best part is that unlike solar eclipses, they pose no danger to the human eye and can therefore be viewed without requiring any special equipment.