Monday, December 20, 2010

That Old Devil Moon

Caption: Partial lunar eclipse, 7 September 2006. Viewed from the disused Second World War buildings at the Forestry Commission's "Yew Tree Heath" car park in the New Forest. As the moon rose above the flare stacks of Fawley Refinery it was already partially eclipsed by the earth's shadow. Most of the moon's surface was in the 'penumbra' (part-shadow) which gives it an orange-red tint, for the same reasons that a setting sun looks orangey-red.

Image credit: Jim Champion/Wikimedia

I'd almost forgotten:
Barring cloudy weather, astronomy enthusiasts and sky gazers across North America will be treated to the only lunar eclipse of the year Monday night.
As the moon moves deeper into Earth's shadow, indirect sunlight passes through Earth's atmosphere, casting an orange and red hue over the moon.
According to NASA, the total phase should last about three and a half hours when it begins as a partial eclipse at 1:33 a.m. ET and it will finish at 5:01 a.m. ET. The totality phase -- when the moon is entirely inside Earth's shadow -- will last approximately 72 minutes.

Only Lunar Eclipse of 2010 Takes Place Monday Night
That's about 10:30 PM Pacific time, tonight. It should look a bit like that picture, a sort of reddish-orangy glow. If you're lucky enough to be somewhere it isn't raining, you might be able to see it tonight.

If you can, enjoy.

UPDATE: Naturally, the sky was cloudy here today. Thankfully, that wasn't true everywhere:
Caption: A total lunar eclipse is seen as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on the arrival of the winter solstice, Tuesday, December 21, 2010 in Arlington, VA. From beginning to end, the eclipse will last about three hours and twenty-eight minutes.

Image credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA

Click on the image to enlarge. There are larger versions of the photo.

UPDATE 2 (Dec. 22): Dana Hunter got some decent pictures of the event.

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