Blood moon, Act II, opens soon in the heavens near you. And it will be bigger than Act I.
(This is the second Blood Moon this year. There will be four this year: The Tetrad of Blood Moons)
If you live in the western half of the United States, you’ll have a front-row seat on a lunar eclipse that will turn the moon a burnt reddish orange for about an hour Wednesday October 8th, creating the second blood moon in relatively short succession.
The full eclipse will start at 6:25 a.m. ET, NASA says, and last until 7:24 a.m. ET.
Because it happens right after the perigee, the closest point to Earth in the moon’s orbit, this blood moon will be nearly the size of a super moon — appearing 5.3% larger than the previous blood moon on April 15.
It will be the second in a sequence of four — called a tetrad– that are occurring in roughly six-month intervals. The next one will appear on April 4, 2015, and the last one on September 28, 2015.
Tetrad a rare treat
With that frequency, one might be misled into thinking that blood moons are commonplace.
There are about two lunar eclipses per year, NASA says. Some of them — penumbral eclipses — are so subtle, they are vaguely visible and go greatly unnoticed.
Other eclipses just cast a partial shadow on the moon but lend it none of that blood moon color that only total eclipses do. And they come around, on average, less than once a year.
The brilliant hue comes from the edges of the sun peeking out around the periphery of the Earth through its atmosphere in a global sunset shining on the moon, which has to be in just the right position to catch those rays.
Lunar eclipses — penumbral, partial or total — occur in random order, NASA says. Getting four total eclipses in a row is like drawing a rare lunar poker hand of four of a kind.
“The most unique thing about the 2014-2015 tetrad is that all of them are visible for all or parts of the U.S.A.,” said NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak.
People in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, for example, will not be able to see Wednesday’s blood moon.
In the 21st century, there will be many such 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, Espenak says. 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.
2014 Draconid meteor shower
The 2014 Draconid meteor shower will peak on October 8 and 9. The best time to view the shower for those in the Northern Hemisphere is right after nightfall. Unfortunately, a full Moon will make it hard to view the meteors.
The Draconid meteor shower, also sometimes known as the Giacobinids, is one of the two meteor showers to annually grace the skies in October.
The Draconid meteor shower, also sometimes known as the Giacobinids, is one of the two meteor showers to annually grace the skies in October. The Draconids owe their name to the constellation Draco the Dragon, and are created when the Earth passes through the dust debris left by comet 21 P/ Giacobini-Zinner. The comet takes about 6.6 years to make a single revolution around the Sun.
Although the Draconids have been responsible for some of the most spectacular meteor showers in recorded history, most recently in 2011, most astronomers and sky gazers consider these to be one of the least interesting meteor showers in during the year.
The Orionids are the second meteor shower in October. It usually peaks around October 21.
Where to view the Draconids
Viewers in Northern America, Europe and Asia are the best situated to enjoy the Draconids. Those closer to the Equator in the Southern Hemisphere can also sometimes see few of meteors from the Draconids.
While it is not necessary to look in a particular direction to enjoy a meteor shower – just lay down on the ground and look directly above and you are bound to see some meteors – astronomers suggest locating the constellations two brightest stars, Eltanin and Rastaban. The meteor shower seems to emerge from the dragon’s head.
When to view the Draconids
Unlike its counterparts, the best time to view the Draconids is just after the Sun sets and right before nightfall. This is because, the Draconids’ radiant point – the point in the sky where the meteor shower seems to come from – is highest in the sky during dusk. The shower peaks around October 7 and 8 every year.