SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — The colors of fall are not just reserved for the changing leaves. Sometimes the moon participates in a seasonal prism providing a kaleidoscope of colors ranging from copper-orange to blood-red. If the skies cooperate, Weaver Observatory on the campus of Wittenberg University will be open during tonight's total lunar eclipse, which will begin around 9:15 p.m. and end a few minutes before 1 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 28.
According to astronomer Dan Fleisch, Wittenberg associate professor of physics, no special equipment will be needed to see and enjoy this event, which will begin with the Earth's shadow creeping across the face of the full moon. In reality, Fleisch explained, the moon is moving into the shadow, a process that takes about one hour.
"Once it is entirely within the shadow of the Earth, the moon will appear much dimmer than usual, illuminated only by the weakened rays of red light that have been refracted through the Earth's atmosphere," Fleisch said. Depending on the amount of dust in the Earth's atmosphere, the moon may also change color during this phase.
"After spending about one hour and 20 minutes totally within the Earth's shadow (from around 10:20 p.m. to 11:40 p.m.), the moon will begin exiting stage left, finally clearing the shadow a bit before 1 a.m.," he said.
Sky watchers should take note; no two eclipses are exactly the same. They will also notice that the edge of the Earth's shadow projected on the moon is curved, providing visible evidence that Earth is a sphere, as deduced by Aristotle from the lunar eclipses he observed in the 4th century B.C.
Observers away from bright city lights will notice a greater number of stars than were visible before the eclipse began. The moon will be in the constellation of Aries the Ram.
What's the significance of this event? "Well, for thousands of years, humans believed that an eclipse portends great change. Since Wednesday's red moon will occur during Game 4 of the World Series, perhaps this is the harbinger of an impending Red Sox dynasty," Fleisch said.