Not since 2010 has North America enjoyed the views of a Total Lunar Eclipse, but it's time to make ready. Just after midnight from Monday, April 14, to Tuesday, April 15, the Full Moon will pass through the deepest part of Earth's shadow, causing an eclipse that will last for three hours and 35 minutes from start to finish.
And at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, that's cause for celebration!
"The exciting thing about this particular eclipse is that, in addition to being the first one that we've seen in awhile, it marks the beginning of a rare series of eclipses known as a Lunar Tetrad," said Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. "A Lunar Tetrad is a series of four Total Lunar Eclipses uninterrupted by a partial eclipse, and it is something that will only happen eight times in the 21st century."
Eclipse times on Tuesday, April 15 are as follows: Partial Eclipse begins at 1:58 a.m., local time; Total Eclipse begins at 3:06 a.m.; Greatest Eclipse occurs at 3:46 a.m.; Total Eclipse ends at 4:25 a.m.; Partial Eclipse ends at 5:33 a.m.
At the Headlands program "Field Trip to the Moon" on Tuesday, April 15 - starting at 12:30 a.m. (yes, you read that time correctly) and until 4 a.m., guests will enjoy naked eye and telescopic views of the eclipse, storytelling, terrific photographic opportunities and artistic activity. A new activity is planned to add to the cultural significance of this celestial event.
"This year we're partnering with the Mackinaw Area Arts Council to host eclipse sketching," said Adams. She said the partnership arose in part on the observation by astronomers with Astronomy Magazine that while photographing eclipses can be spectacular, notes and sketches made during an eclipse can help to recall details of the phenomena later in ways that are more intimate and personal to one's experience, because they are more true to what the eye can see.
"By making our own sketches we capture not only the unique nature of the event, but also our own perspective, no matter how artistic we deem ourselves," continued Adams, pointing out that the Moon will be near the bright blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo, with the red planet Mars nearby. "At eclipse, the Moon appears reddish, Spica will be brilliant, and Mars will add its own color to the scheme."
Local photographer Lorie Axtell will assist in the development of the journals/sketches. "We hope to encourage some writing and journaling of the actual experience and to have guests write down their thoughts and feelings surrounding the event - wherever the mind and imagination take us," Axtell said. "We could get some poetry or great short stories out of this unique community experience."
The Headlands Field Trip to the Moon is free and open to the public, light refreshments and some materials will be provided, and guests are encouraged to bring their own blankets, chairs, sketch pads, and perhaps coffee. Reservations are not required. Meet at the Guest House.
If you have questions, call Adams at (231) 838-8181 or email email@example.com.
The Headlands is a 600-acre park on the Straits of Mackinac, two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City, at 15675 Headlands Road (please note this is a new address as of January 2014). The park is free and open to the public every day. While no camping is allowed, visitors are welcome to stay overnight to observe the dark sky overhead. Visit www.emmetcounty.org for 2014 programs and more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (231) 348-1704. The county sends regular email blasts as well with information about night-sky observation opportunities and celestial events; to register, use the contact information above.