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Rain in Pittsburgh region threatens to spoil ‘blood moon’ eclipse |

Rain in Pittsburgh region threatens to spoil ‘blood moon’ eclipse

| Saturday, April 12, 2014 8:04 p.m

Stargazers could be treated to a rare heavenly sight early Tuesday: A total lunar eclipse.

But the stars might not align. A cold front bringing clouds and rain is set to move into Western Pennsylvania on Monday night, meaning amateur astronomers who wake up in the middle of the night are likely to miss the show.

“If I go to bed at 11 p.m. (Monday) and it’s raining, I’m not going to worry about it,” said Bill Roemer, former director of the Mingo Creek Park Observatory and a member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh.

“But all it takes is a break in the clouds and you can see it,” he added. “It’s a cool thing to look at in the sky.”

This total lunar eclipse, which will be visible throughout much of the Western Hemisphere, is different from most. It’s a “blood moon,” meaning that when the Earth moves between the sun and moon and casts its shadow, the moon will turn a distinct shade of deep red.

“Totality begins about 2 a.m. (Tuesday) and ends about 3:30 a.m.,” Roemer said. “It will be a very dark red. The earth’s shadow will cover the moon and then slowly, the moon will turn to that dark red.”

Alas, the National Weather Service predicts a 90 percent chance of rain with a slight chance of thunderstorms early Tuesday.

“If it’s not raining, I’m pretty certain that the clouds will not make this (eclipse) visible,” said meteorologist Rihaan Gangat. “It’s an unfortunate forecast. But we don’t control the weather. We just forecast it.”

If clouds do indeed interfere, other chances soon will arrive.

This is the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015, according to NASA. Upcoming total lunar eclipses will occur on Oct. 8, 2014, April 4, 2015, and Sept. 28, 2015.

Mingo Creek Park Observatory will open for anyone wishing to view the blood moon through telescopes.

“But, frankly, you’ll be able to see it with the naked eye,” Roemer said. “It’s different. I’ll get up at 1:30 in the morning and take a look.”

Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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