CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Sky-gazers in North and South America were treated to a full lunar eclipse – at least those fortunate enough to have clear skies.
The moon was eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow early Tuesday, beginning around 1 a.m. for 5½ hours. The total phase of the eclipse lasted just 78 minutes.
For some, the moon appeared red-orange because of all the sunsets and sunrises shimmering from Earth, thus the name “blood moon.”
It’s the first of four eclipses this year and the first of four total lunar eclipses this year and next. The latter is a rare lineup; the next so-called tetrad of total lunar eclipses won’t occur until 2032-2033. In the meantime, get ready for a solar eclipse in two weeks.
NASA got good news Tuesday: Its moon-orbiting spacecraft, LADEE survived the eclipse. Scientists had feared LADEE might freeze up in the cold darkness.
“Keep little LADEE in your prayers as you gaze up at the beautiful eclipsing moon late Monday night!” NASA wrote on its LADEE website prior to the eclipse.
The end is near, however, for plucky, little LADEE.
The spacecraft is circling the moon ever lower and, by Monday, is expected to crash as planned into the back side of the moon, far from any historic artifacts from the Apollo era.
LADEE – short for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer – was not designed to withstand a prolonged eclipse. It completed its science-collecting mission in March and has been on overtime ever since.
NASA launched LADEE last September from Virginia.