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Did you know there will be a lunar eclipse this week? Jessi and Squeaks explore what causes lunar eclipses and why they can make the moon look red!
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Correction: Edited by Sarah Meismer
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SOURCES:
http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/what-is-an-eclipse-k4/#.VPTZQ1PF9sD
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/lunar.html
http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/lunar/2015-april-4
http://www.space.com/15689-lunar-eclipses.html

Images: www.thinkstock.com
Hi it’s Jessi here in the observatory! This is where we come to look at the night sky, just to see what we can find.   But there are lots of things up there you can find without needing a telescope at all.   The moon is easy to spot, and you’ve probably noticed that it can look different at different times of the month.    Sometimes it looks like a crescent.    Other times, it’s big and round in the night sky, glowing white.    You can also sometimes see the moon during the day.   But have you ever seen a red moon? This happens during a lunar eclipse, which will be appearing in the night sky very briefly this week!    “Lunar” is the word we use to describe things that have to do with the moon. And an eclipse is when one objects blocks, or gets in the way of, another.   So let’s use those two ideas to figure out what happens up there in the sky to make a lunar eclipse take place.   If you’ve ever noticed that you can see the moon in different parts of the sky at different times, that’s because the moon orbits, or goes around, the Earth. It makes a full trip around us once a month.    And at the same time that the moon is orbiting the Earth, the Earth is also going orbiting around the sun.   So at different times, the sun, moon and Earth are in different positions.   And every once in a while, the Earth happens to get right smack-dab in between the Sun and the moon.    And they end up in a straight line.   When they all line up this way, the Earth blocks some of the sun’s light and casts a big shadow on the moon.   That, my fellow sky-watchers, is a lunar eclipse.   But the shadow that the Earth casts on the moon isn’t black. It’s not even really that dark!   Instead, during a lunar eclipse, the moon can look red!    That’s because when sunlight shines from behind the Earth, it travels through our atmosphere.    And that light bends when it shines around the Earth. Those bent rays of sunlight then create a red color on the moon.   Lunar eclipses are famous for turning the moon red, but they can be other colors, too like yellow, orange, or brown.    What color you see depends partly on where you are when you’re watching it.   And not everyone on Earth can see the eclipse -- only people who happen to be on the side of the Earth that’s facing the moon when it happens can see it. Generally, that’s the side where it’s nighttime.   Unlike solar eclipses, which can hurt our eyes, we can look at lunar eclipses directly. You can even take pictures of them with your camera.   The lunar eclipse will be visible all over the western United States, Canada, and most of Mexico, plus in eastern Australia and Japan!   Now, lunar eclipses don’t happen that often, maybe twice a year if the Sun, moon and Earth line up just right.   But if you can’t catch this one, don’t worry! There will be another one in September.   So go to bed early the night before and check out the moon before breakfast! That’s what we’re gonna be doing!   But hey, do us a favor and let us know if you saw it, and report back what color it was! We always love to hear what other sky-watchers are seeing.   Thanks for learning about lunar eclipses with us; see you next time!