Total Eclipse of the Moon: April 4, 2015

by Fred Espenak

Lunar Eclipse Diagrams
Times and Phases of the Total Lunar Eclipse
Visibility of the Total Lunar Eclipse
Wonderful Totality
The Pale Penumbral Phase
Tetrads: Four Consecutive Total Lunar Eclipses
Eclipse Frequency and Future Eclipses
Lunar Eclipse Resources & Links
Photos of the Last Total Lunar Eclipse: April 15, 2014


A total eclipse of the Moon occurs during the early morning hours of April 4, 2015. Although portions of the eclipse will be visible from much of North America, observers in the western third of the continent have the best view. For locations in the rest of the continent, the Moon sets while the eclipse is still in progress. The eclipse will be seen in its entirety from Hawaii, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and eastern most Asia. Central and eastern North America (and the western half of South America) will see the beginning stages of the eclipse before moonset while most of Asia witnesses the later stages after moonrise.

During a total lunar eclipse, the Moon's disk can take on a dramatically colorful appearance from bright orange to blood red and more rarely dark brown to very dark gray. One of the great things about lunar eclipses is that they are completely safe to view with the naked eye. No special filters are required to protect your eyes like those used for solar eclipses. You don't need a telescope to watch the eclipse, although a good pair of binoculars will enhance your experience.

An eclipse of the Moon can only take place at Full Moon, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of Earth's shadow. The shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped parts, one nested inside the other. The outer shadow or penumbra is a zone where Earth blocks some (but not all) of the Sun's rays. In contrast, the inner shadow or umbra is a region where Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.

When only part of the Moon passes through the umbra, a partial lunar eclipse is seen. If the entire Moon passes through the umbral shadow, then a total eclipse of the Moon occurs. It is also possible to have an eclipse where the Moon passes through only the penumbra. Each of these three eclipses has a unique appearance (see Visual Appearance of Lunar Eclipses). For more information on the how, what, why, when and where of lunar eclipses, see the special web page Lunar Eclipses for Beginners.

Visit Eclipses During 2015 for a complete report on all eclipses occurring over the year.

2015 Total Lunar Eclipse
Path of the Moon through Earth's umbral and penumbral shadows
during the Total Lunar Eclipse of April 4, 2015.
This version of the diagram gives times in Pacific Daylight Time.
(click for larger diagram)

Lunar Eclipse Diagrams

The following diagrams (in high resolution) show the Moon's path through Earth's shadows during April's eclipse. The times of major eclipse stages are given for time zones throughout North America. Please choose the diagram for your own time zone. Each diagram is a GIF file with a size of about 60 KB.

Creative Commons License
The diagrams above of the Total Lunar Eclipse of April 4, 2015 by Fred Espenak, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

From the eastern and central USA and Canada (time zones EDT and CDT), the eclipse begins shortly before sunrise and the Moon sets in the west just as the Sun rises. From much of the western USA and Canada (time zones MDT and PDT), most of the eclipse is visible but the Moon sets before the partial phases end.

Only observers in the very western-most USA and Canada will see all stages of the eclipse. The entire event is also visible from Alaska and Hawaii (time zones AKDT and HST), as well as Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia.

Some people may be puzzled that the Moon's motion in these diagrams is from west to east (right to left), instead of its daily east to west (left to right) motion across the sky. However, the Moon actually moves WEST to EAST (right to left in the Northern Hemisphere) with respect to the Earth's shadow and the stars. At the same time, the Moon, Earth's shadow and the stars all rise in the east and set in the west.

2014 Total Eclipse
April 15, 2014 Lunar Eclipse Sequence
The total lunar eclipse of April 15, 2014 was widely visible from the USA.
This sequence of images captures the eclipse from start (right) to finish (left).
(click to see larger image)

Times and Phases of April's Total Lunar Eclipse

From start to finish, April's lunar eclipse lasts about three hours and twenty-nine minutes (not including the penumbral phases which are very difficult to see). The partial eclipse begins as the Moon's eastern edge slowly moves into Earth's umbral shadow. During the partial phases, it takes one hour and forty-two minutes for the Moon's orbital motion to carry it entirely within Earth's dark umbra.

The most striking thing about this eclipse is that the total phase (when the Moon is completely inside the umbral shadow) is very short, lasting just four and a half minutes.

The color and brightness of the totally eclipsed Moon can vary considerably from one eclipse to another. Dark eclipses are caused by volcanic gas and dust which filters and blocks much of the Sun's light from reaching the Moon. Although Indonesia's Mount Kelud has undergone recent volcanic eruptions, it has not produced enough dust and gas to significantly darken April's eclipse. Expect the total phase to appear bright red or orange, which is typical (see: What Will the 2014 and 2015 Lunar Eclipses Look Like?). After the total phase ends, it is once again followed by a partial eclipse as the Moon gradually leaves the umbral shadow. The Visual Appearance of Lunar Eclipses describes what each of these eclipse phases looks like.

The total phase of a lunar eclipse is called totality. At this time, the Moon is completely immersed within Earth's dark umbral shadow. During the April 4 eclipse, totality will lasts only 4.5 minutes. This is unusually short especially when compared with the USA's last total lunar eclipse on October 8, 2014 which lasted nearly 59 minutes.

The major phases of the eclipse occur as follows (all times are GMT or Greenwich Mean Time). The partial eclipse commences with first umbral contact at 10:15 GMT. Totality begins at 11:58 GMT and lasts until 12:03 GMT. The partial phases end at 13:45 GMT. Eclipse times for time zones in the United States and Canada are shown in the following table. Most areas of the United States currently observe Daylight Saving Time (DST). Two notable exceptions are Arizona (although the Navajo Nation does observe Daylight Saving Time) and Hawaii. Observers in Arizona should use the times listed under Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).

Total Lunar Eclipse of 2015 Apr 04
-North AmericaPacific
Partial Eclipse Begins: 10:16 am 06:16 am 05:16 am 04:16 am 03:16 am 02:16 am 12:16 am
Total Eclipse Begins: 11:58 am 07:58 am 06:58 am 05:58 am 04:58 am 03:58 am 01:58 am
Greatest Eclipse: 12:00 pm 08:00 am 07:00 am 06:00 am 05:00 am 04:00 am 02:00 am
Total Eclipse Ends: 12:03 pm 08:03 am 07:03 am 06:03 am 05:03 am 04:03 am 02:03 am
Partial Eclipse Ends: 01:45 pm 09:45 am 08:45 am 07:45 am 06:45 am 05:45 am 03:45 am

Key to Time Zones
GMT Greenwich Mean Time
EDT Eastern Daylight Time (GMT - 4 hours)
CDT Central Daylight Time (GMT - 5 hours)
MDT Mountain Daylight Time (GMT - 6 hours)
PDT Pacific Daylight Time (GMT - 7 hours)
AKDT Alaska Daylight Time (GMT - 8 hours)
HST Hawaii Standard Time (GMT - 10 hours)

The table above provides times of the major eclipse phases for North American time zones and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Although the none of the eclipse is visible from England, astronomers use GMT (actually UTC or Coordinated Universal Time) as the standard time for describing astronomical events. Eclipse times for other time zones can be calculated by taking the difference between local time and Greenwich and adding it to the tabulated GMT times. For more information, see Time Zones. (Note: Although GMT is still in common use, it has actually been replaced by Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which is based on atomic time.)

The eclipse times for the western Pacific (New Zealand, Australia, & Japan) can be found in the table below.

Total Lunar Eclipse of 2015 Apr 04
New ZealandAustraliaJapan
Partial Eclipse Begins: 10:16 pm 08:16 pm 07:46 pm 06:16 pm 07:16 pm
Total Eclipse Begins: 11:58 pm 09:58 pm 09:28 pm 07:58 pm 08:58 pm
Greatest Eclipse: 12:00 am * 10:00 pm 09:30 pm 08:00 pm 09:00 pm
Total Eclipse Ends: 12:03 am * 10:03 pm 09:33 pm 08:03 pm 09:03 pm
Partial Eclipse Ends: 01:45 am * 11:45 pm 11:15 pm 09:45 pm 10:45 pm

* Event occurs on morning of April 5, 2015

Key to Time Zones
NZST New Zealand Standard Time (GMT + 12 hours)
AEST Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT + 10 hours)
ACST Australian Central Standard Time (GMT + 9.5 hours)
AWST Australian Western Standard Time (GMT + 8 hours)
JST Japan Standard Time (GMT + 9 hours)

To determine the Moon's altitude at each stage of the eclipse as seen from your city or location, see Javascript Lunar Eclipse Explorer. This web page allows you to calculate the viewing circumstances of all lunar eclipses visible from your city over a five-thousand year period.

Visibility of the Total Lunar Eclipse of April 4, 2015

April's lunar eclipse is well placed for westernmost North America, Hawaii, Japan, New Zealand and Australia where the entire event will be visible. Observers in eastern North America and western South America will miss some stages of the eclipse because they occur after moonset. Similarly, observers in central Asia, will miss the early stages of the eclipse since it begins before moonrise. No part of the eclipse is visible from Europe, Africa, the Middle East or eastern South America.

Preceeding and following the eclipse are approximately hour-long penumbral phases but these are faint and quite difficult to see. The more interesting and photogenic partial and total phases always take center stage (see The Pale Penumbral Phase).

Eclipse Map
Map showing the global visibility of the Total Lunar Eclipse of April 4, 2015.
(Click here to see larger version of this map)

Key to Eclipse Visibility Map
Symbol Event
U1 Partial eclipse begins
U2 Total eclipse begins
U3 Total eclipse ends
U4 Partial eclipse ends
Creative Commons License
The Visibility Map above for the Total Lunar Eclipse of April 4, 2015 by Fred Espenak, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The map above shows the geographic regions of visibility for each phase of the eclipse. The entire eclipse is visible from start to finish in the white (unshaded) portion of the map, while none of the eclipse can be seen from the dark gray areas.

For anyone located in the light gray shaded region labeled Eclipse at Moonset, this means that the Moon will set while some phase of the eclipse is in progress. The contact curves labeled U1, U2, U3, and U4 represent each phase of the eclipse (see the key above). If you are east (right) of a particular curve, that phase occurs after moonset and you will not see it. However, if you are west (left) of a curve, that phase occurs before moonset and you will see it (weather permitting).

For example, on the above map Ohio and Illinois both lie west (left) of the U1 curve (partial eclipse begins) and east (right) of the curve U2 (total eclipse begins). This means that from this region, the Moon sets during the partial phases before totality begins.

For observers located within the second light gray shaded region labeled Eclipse at Moonrise, the Moon rises while some phase of the eclipse is already in progress. If you are west (left) of a particular curve (U1, U2, U3, or U4), that phase occurs before moonrise and you will not see it. However, if you are east (right) of a contact curve, that phase occurs after moonrise and you will see it (weather permitting).

All total eclipses begin with penumbral and partial phases before totality. After the total phase, the eclipse ends with more partial and penumbral phases. Since the penumbral phases of the eclipse are so difficult to see, we will ignore them.

2000 Total Lunar Eclipse
The Total Lunar Eclipse of July 16, 2000 was a very long total eclipse (1 hour 47 minutes)
that won't be exceeded for over a thousand years.
(click for larger image)

Wonderful Totality

At the instant of mid-totality (12:00 GMT), the Moon will lie at the zenith for observers in the South Pacific Ocean near the Solomon Islands. At this time, the umbral eclipse magnitude peaks at 1.0007. Eclipse magnitude is the fraction of the Moon's diameter immersed in Earth's umbral shadow at greatest eclipse. This value is always 1.0 or larger for total eclipses. In the case of April's eclipse, the magnitude is just slightly greater than 1.0 meaning that the Moon barely passes inside the umbral shadow.

With a total phase only lasting 4.5 minutes, this is unusually short. A search of the 685 total lunar eclipses occurring between 1501 and 2500 (Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses 1501 to 2500) reveals that the April 4th eclipse is the 4th shortest during this 1,000-year period. Only the total lunar eclipses of 10/17/1529, 09/11/2155, and 05/25/2366 are shorter. If we expand our search to include the 3,479 total lunar eclipses occurring during the 5,000-year period -1999 to 3000, we find that the April 4th eclipse still places a respectable 8th shortest.

From the eclipse diagrams shown earlier, it is clear that the southern (bottom) edge of the Moon will dip much deeper into the Earth's shadow than will the northern (top) edge. Since Earth's umbral shadow is darker in the center than at the edge, the Moon's appearance will likely change dramatically with time as the total phase progresses. A large variation in shadow brightness can be expected and observers are encouraged to estimate the Danjon value at different times during totality (Danjon Brightness Scale).

Because the lunar disk barely passes completely within Earth's umbral shadow, expect the Moon's northern edge to appear many times brighter than the rest of the Moon during the brief total phase. The photo below should give you a good idea of what the Moon should look like during totality.

2004 Total Lunar Eclipse
This image of the Total Lunar Eclipse of Oct. 28, 2004 was shot just before
the total phase ended. The northern edge of the Moon was very close
to the edge of Earth's umbral shadow making it appear much brighter than
the rest of the Moon. The April 4 eclipse may look very similar to this
during the brief 4.5 minutes of its total phase.
(click for larger image)

This could be an excellent opportunity for budding astronomers to test their observing skills. Try recording your estimates of the Moon's brightness every ten minutes during totality using the Danjon Brightness Scale. Compare your results with your companions and classmates and discover how the Moon's appearance changes during the total eclipse. The brightness of the totally eclipsed Moon is very sensitive to the presence of volcanic dust in Earth's atmosphere. As part of a continuing research project, Dr. Richard Keen has been using reports of lunar eclipse brightnesses to calculate a history of optical thicknesses of volcanic dust layers (see: What Will the 2014 and 2015 Lunar Eclipses Look Like?). If you'd like to help Dr. Keen by making eclipse observations, you can contact him .

The amount of dust and sulfur dioxide in Earth's atmosphere also has an effect on the diameter of the umbral shadow. Amateur astronomers with telescopes can make careful timings of when some of the Moon's major craters enter or exit the umbra. Such observations are valuable in determining the enlargement of Earth's shadow. A table of crater predictions identifies twenty well-defined craters useful for this purpose. For more information, see: Crater Timings During Lunar Eclipses.

An eclipse of the Moon also presents a tempting subject to photograph. Since the Moon appears quite small in the sky, you'll need a fairly powerful telephoto lens (400 mm or more) or even a small telescope to attach to your camera. A typical ISO 400 speed (either digital or film) is a good choice. For more information on equipment, film, recommended exposures and additional tips, see How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse.

Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are completely safe to watch. Protective filters are not necessary and neither is a telescope. A lunar eclipse can be observed with nothing more than the naked eye. However, a pair of binoculars will magnify the view and make the red coloration brighter and easier to see. A standard pair of 7x35 or 7x50 binoculars is sufficient.

During the eclipse, the Moon will be at its descending node in Virgo. Spica (m = +1.05) is the most conspicuous star lying 10° southeast of the eclipsed Moon. The brilliant blue color of Spica makes for a striking contrast with the crimson Moon. Arcturus (m = +0.15) is 33° to the north, Saturn (m = +0.3) is 51° to the east, Jupiter (m = -2.3) is 61° to the west, and Antares (m = +1.07) is 56° to the southeast.

Although total eclipses of the Moon are of limited scientific value, they are remarkably beautiful events which do not require expensive equipment. They help to cultivate interest in science and astronomy in children and to provide a unique learning opportunity for families, students and teachers. To the nature lover and naturalist, the lunar eclipse can be appreciated and celebrated as an event which vividly illustrates our place among the planets in the solar system. The three dimensional reality of our universe comes alive in a graceful celestial ballet as the Moon swings through Earth's shadow. Hope for clear skies, dress warmly and enjoy the show!

The Pale Penumbral Phase

The penumbral phases of the eclipse have been mentioned several times as being difficult to see. In fact, the start of the penumbral eclipse (at 8:16 GMT) is impossible to see. Even when half of the Moon's disk is immersed in the pale penumbral shadow, no trace of it is visible with or without a telescope. This is why the penumbral phases of the eclipse are downplayed here.

When about 2/3 of the Moon's disk is in the penumbra, the first hint of the shadow becomes visible (about 09:01 GMT). It is a very diffuse and subtle shading that gradually grows stronger. About ten minutes before the partial phase begins (10:05 GMT), the penumbral shading is much more apparent, but the Moon's disk is only diminished slightly in brightness.

The most interesting stage of the penumbral phase is during the last two minutes just before the edge of the Moon's disk begins to enter the umbral shadow (the start of the partial eclipse). Now the penumbral shading is apparent even to the naked eye. Still, this stage of the eclipse literally pales in comparison to the dynamic partial phases and the gloriously beautiful totality.

After totality and the partial phases end (13:45 GMT), the penumbral phases occur in reverse. The Moon exits the penumbra at 14:59 GMT but no trace of the shadow is visible to mark the event.

To get an idea of what to expect during the deeper penumbral phases, see Visual Appearance of Lunar Eclipses.

Total Lunar Eclipses of 2014-2015
Total Lunar Eclipse of
2014 Apr 15
Total Lunar Eclipse of
2014 Oct 08
Total Lunar Eclipse of
2015 Apr 04
Total Lunar Eclipse of
2015 Sep 28

Click on any of the above figures for a closer look.

Tetrads: Four Consecutive Total Lunar Eclipses

April's eclipse is the first to two total lunar eclipses in 2015. The second eclipse is on September 28 and will be visible from the eastern USA and western Europe. In the case of the April 4 eclipse, the westernmost USA sees the entire eclipse while the eastern USA misses the end because the Moon sets while the eclipse is still in progress.

These two eclipses are the last of four consecutive total lunar eclipses, each separated by six months - a series known as a tetrad. The first and second eclipses of the tetrad occurred on April 15, 2014 and Oct. 8, 2014 .

During the 5000-year period from 2000 BCE through 3000 CE, there are 3479 total lunar eclipses. Approximately 16.3% (568) of these belong to one of the 142 tetrads occurring over this period. The mechanism causing tetrads involves the eccentricity of Earth's orbit in conjunction with the timing of eclipse seasons. During the present millennium, the first eclipse of every tetrad occurs during the period February to July. In later millennia, the first eclipse date gradually falls later in the year because of precession.

Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli first pointed out that the frequency of tetrads is variable over time. He noticed that tetrads were relatively plentiful during one 300-year interval, while none occurred during the next 300 years. For example, there are no tetrads from 1582 to 1908, but 17 tetrads occur from 1909 to 2156. The ~565-year period of the tetrad "seasons" is tied to the slowly decreasing eccentricity of Earth's orbit. Consequently, the tetrad period is gradually decreasing (Meeus, 2004). In the distant future when Earth's eccentricity is 0 (about 470,000 years from now), tetrads will no longer be possible.

The umbral magnitudes of the total eclipses making up a tetrad are all relatively small. For the 300-year period 1901 to 2200, the largest umbral magnitude of a tetrad eclipse is 1.4251 on 1949 Apr 13. For comparison, the magnitudes of some other total eclipses during this period are much larger. Two examples are the total eclipses of July 16, 2000 and June 26, 2029 with umbral magnitudes of 1.7684 and 1.8436, respectively.

The table below gives the dates of each eclipse in the 8 tetrads occurring during the 21st century. The last tetrad prior to 2014 was in 2003-04 while the next group is in 2032-33.

Total Lunar Eclipse Tetrads from 2001 to 2100
Tetrad # 1st Eclipse 2nd Eclipse 3rd Eclipse 4th Eclipse
1 2003 May 16 2003 Nov 09 2004 May 04 2004 Oct 28
2 2014 Apr 15 2014 Oct 08 2015 Apr 04 2015 Sep 28
3 2032 Apr 25 2032 Oct 18 2033 Apr 14 2033 Oct 08
4 2043 Mar 25 2043 Sep 19 2044 Mar 13 2044 Sep 07
5 2050 May 06 2050 Oct 30 2051 Apr 26 2051 Oct 19
6 2061 Apr 04 2061 Sep 29 2062 Mar 25 2062 Sep 18
7 2072 Mar 04 2072 Aug 28 2073 Feb 22 2073 Aug 17
8 2090 Mar 15 2090 Sep 08 2091 Mar 05 2091 Aug 29

Two catalogs have been prepared, each listing all tetrads over 3000-year periods:

2000 Total Lunar Eclipse
This multiple exposure sequence shows both partial and total phases of the Total Lunar Eclipse of January 21, 2000.
(click for larger image)

Eclipse Frequency and Future Eclipses

During the five millennium period from 2000 BCE through 3000 CE, there are 7,718 eclipses of the Moon [1] (including both partial and total eclipses). From 0 to 3 lunar eclipses (partial or total) occur each year. The last time three total lunar eclipses occurred in one calendar year was in 1982. On average, partial eclipses slightly outnumber total eclipses by 7 to 6 [2].

The last total lunar eclipse visible from the entire continental United States occurred on Oct. 8, 2014. North Americans will have their next opportunity to see a total lunar eclipse on Sept. 28, 2015. Visit Eclipses During 2015 for a complete report on all eclipses occurring over the year.

The table below lists every lunar eclipse from 2014 through 2020. Click on the eclipse Date to see a description, map and diagram of each eclipse. Although penumbral lunar eclipses are included in this list, they are quite difficult to observe because of their subtlety. (The penumbra is a partial shadow that permits some direct sunlight to reach the Moon.)

The Umbral Eclipse Magnitude is the fraction on the Moon's diameter immersed in the umbra at maximum eclipse. Partial eclipses have a magnitude less than 1. For magnitudes of 1 or greater, the eclipse is total. For negative magnitudes, the eclipse is penumbral. The Eclipse Duration is the duration of the entire eclipse. For total eclipses the duration of the total phase is also listed in bold.


[1] Only eclipses where the Moon passes through Earth's umbral shadow are included in these values. A minor type of eclipse is the penumbral eclipse, which occurs when the Moon passes through Earth's faint penumbral shadow. Penumbral eclipses are rarely discernible to the naked eye and are of lesser importance than umbral eclipses.

[2] Penumbral eclipses are excluded from these statistics.

Lunar Eclipses: 2014 - 2020
Date Eclipse Type Saros Umbral Magnitude Eclipse Duration Geographic Region of Eclipse Visibility
2014 Apr 15 Total 122 1.291 03h35m
Aus., Pacific, Americas
2014 Oct 08 Total 127 1.166 03h20m
Asia, Aus., Pacific, Americas
2015 Apr 04 Total 132 1.001 03h29m
Asia, Aus., Pacific, Americas
2015 Sep 28 Total 137 1.276 03h20m
e Pacific, Americas, Europe, Africa, w Asia
2016 Mar 23 Penumbral 142 -0.312 - Asia, Aus., Pacific, w Americas
2016 Sep 16 Penumbral 147 -0.064 - Europe, Africa, Asia, Aus., w Pacific
2017 Feb 11 Penumbral 114 -0.035 - Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia
2017 Aug 07 Partial 119 0.246 01h55m Europe, Africa, Asia, Aus.
2018 Jan 31 Total 124 1.315 03h23m
Asia, Aus., Pacific, w N.America
2018 Jul 27 Total 129 1.609 03h55m
S.America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Aus.
2019 Jan 21 Total 134 1.195 03h17m
c Pacific, Americas, Europe, Africa
2019 Jul 16 Partial 139 0.653 02h58m S.America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Aus.
2020 Jan 10 Penumbral 144 -0.116 - Europe, Africa, Asia, Aus.
2020 Jun 05 Penumbral 111 -0.405 - Europe, Africa, Asia, Aus.
2020 Jul 05 Penumbral 149 -0.644 - Americas, sw Europe, Africa
2020 Nov 30 Penumbral 116 -0.262 - Asia, Aus., Pacific, Americas

Geographic abbreviations (used above): n = north, s = south, e = east, w = west, c = central

2000 Total Lunar Eclipse
The Total Lunar Eclipse of July 16, 2000 as seen from Maui.
(click for larger image)

Lunar Eclipse Predictions

Lunar Eclipse Photographs

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