On the night of April 14th, two significant and spectacular events will take place simultaneously, as Mars reaches its closest point to Earth while the Moon will be totally eclipsed. Slooh will present these events in real time, starting with coverage of Mars at 7 PM PDT / 10 PM EDT / 02 UTC (4/15) (International Times) from Slooh’s telescopes off the west coast of Africa in the Canary Islands and transitioning to coverage of the Total Lunar Eclipse starting at 11 PM PDT / 2 AM EDT (4/15) / 06 UTC (4/15) (International Times) with live feeds from throughout North America. Viewers can watch free on Slooh.com or by downloading the Slooh iPad app. The live image stream will be hosted by Slooh Observatory Director Paul Cox and Slooh astronomer Bob Berman, who will be reporting live from Prescott Observatory in Prescott, Arizona. Viewers can ask questions during the show by using hashtag #Slooh.
A wide range of experts will join Slooh during five full hours of programming, including astronomy luminary and bestselling author Timothy Ferris, author of “Seeing in the Dark”, and Professor Emeritus of Astronomy at UC Berkeley, and documentary filmmaker Duncan Copp, producer of the award winning film, “In the Shadow of the Moon”. This is the latest in a series of total lunar eclipse broadcasts dating back to Slooh’s founding in 2003, the highlights of which are a June 2011 broadcast that was featured in the Google Doodle and a December 2010 eclipse broadcast live on the largest jumbotron in Times Square.
This particular lunar eclipse is expected to draw incredible interest because it is visible from the entire United States, and also because the reddish eclipsed moon will float very near the striking blue star Spica, as well as hovering to the left of orange Mars. Altogether, the eclipse will be part of a dramatic sky-spectacle. “There are not too many remaining members of the Flat Earth Society,” comments SLOOH astronomer Bob Berman. “And one reason for that organization’s declining attendance is revealed by the lunar eclipse. You see, only a globe always casts a round shadow. On eclipse night, half the world will watch the moon venture into a rounded-edged shadow, at the point of the sky exactly opposite the sun, where our world’s
shadow must be cast. More than 2000 years ago, some of the ancient Greeks used this basic reality of lunar eclipses to conclude that Earth must be a sphere. We can confirm their conclusions Monday night.”
“Most people do not realize that our planet casts a red shadow into space,” Berman adds. “That’s because our atmosphere refracts or bends a little bit of sunlight into its shadow. All the world’s sunrises and sunsets send their indirect light to the moon at this time — as the only light hitting the Moon. The result is that the fully eclipsed moon assumes a gorgeous coppery color.”
Mars orbits the Sun at a speed of 15 miles per second — very similar to Earth’s 18.5 miles per second. The similarity means that after the two orbits align, it takes fully 26 months for them to meet again. Moreover, the meeting can happen at a narrow gap between the planets’ orbits, or a wider gap. The current meeting gap is a bit better than the 2012 opposition, and as a result Mars should virtually match the brilliance of Sirius, the night’s brightest star. Still, Mars only appears 15 arcseconds in width, less than half the apparent diameter of Jupiter. This small angular size — even now during its closest approach in over four years — makes the orange world a challenging telescope target. SLOOH’s telescopes are expected to reveal some of its surface features, but backyard amateur astronomers should expect a very small disk containing only dusky markings.