Press release April 7th, 2014
GLORIA expedition to Peru to broadcast live the Total Lunar Eclipse
A total lunar eclipse will occur on April 15th, 2014, the first in 2½ years. This marks the first of four eclipses occurring about 6 months apart, called an eclipse tetrad. The last tetrad was a decade ago, and the next is not due until 2032. GLORIA will travel to Peru to broadcast the event live.
What more fascinating place to observe an astronomical event than the land of the Incas? This pre-Columbian civilisation devoted a lot of time to the study of the sky and worshipped the Sun god, Inti. Recording the movements of the Sun and stars was significant to the Incas both for religious reasons and also because these movements were related to seasonal changes that were important for agriculture. The famous Temple of the Sun (Coricancha) in Cusco has forty-one directions marked out. Some of these correspond to astronomical alignments, such as the direction of the rising or setting sun at the June and December solstices.
Lunar eclipses occur when the Moon passes into the Earth’s shadow. This does not happen every month, because the moon’s orbit is tilted relative to the Earth’s. Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses can be seen from anywhere on the planet once the Moon is above the horizon at the time of the eclipse.
On April 15th a total eclipse will be visible from the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean. If you live in Europe, depending on your location, you may get to see the Moon start its passage into Earth’s shadow (the so-called ‘penumbral’ eclipse phase) at 07:58 CEST on April 15th. However, changes in the Moon’s brightness during this phase, lasting about an hour, are minimal and will be tough to spot. When the Moon enters the darkest portion (or ‘umbra’) of Earth’s shadow, beginning at 09:06 CEST, the Moon will have already set for most of Europe. A partial eclipse will be visible from the Canary Islands.
A team of GLORIA astronomers will celebrate this astronomical spectacle with a live broadcast from the ancient Inca site of Saksaywaman, a walled complex on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco, in Peru. During totality, viewers will see that the Moon does not disappear from view, but turns a reddish colour. The Earth’s atmosphere, extending about 80 km beyond the Earth’s diameter, acts as a lens, bending the sunlight. It also effectively filters out the blue components of the Sun’s light, leaving more red light behind to be reflected from the Moon, giving it the characteristic coppery glow.
GLORIA will also observe the event from Teide volcano. Located on the Canarian island of Tenerife, its altitude of 3750m offers an intriguing observational prospect. When a total lunar eclipse occurs close to sunrise or sunset at Teide, the shadow of the volcano aligns perfectly with the eclipsed Moon. This unique phenomenon will be observable during the eclipse of April 15th and will be broadcast live.
For more information on the live broadcast timings see gloria-project.eu.
GLORIA is a three-year project financed by the Seventh Framework Program of the European Union. The project started in October 2011 and involves 13 institutions from 8 countries.
High resolution images of Lunar eclipses:
Videos of lunar eclipse and Teide shadow evolution: