Monday’s Lunar Eclipse set to thrill countless fans

December 20, 2010

[ChattahBox] – Among those who appreciate astronomy today is a special event. The first total lunar eclipse since 2008 is set for the same night as this year’s Winter solstice; And that combination has not occurred in almost 500 years.

Unlike a solar eclipse, which requires special precautions to avoid eye damage and can only be seen by those in direct line of the totality a lunar eclipse is not just one of nature’s most magical spectacles, but can be safely witnessed by any who might care to observe.

This particular eclipse will be easily visible across the entire American continent and Hawaii, the more northerly parts of Europe, some of northeast Asia, including Korea and most of Japan, and even from the North Island of New Zealand — giving it a potential audience of around 1.5-billion people.

And following its development should be equally easy – The show will begin as the Moon enters the faint outer rim of the Earth’s shadow, the ‘Penumbra,’ at around 1.15am EST. It will then begin to encroach on the inner realm [the ‘Umbra’] at around 1.33am EST, creating the most visually rewarding part of the scene.

But even at the totality the moon will not vanish; Experts tell Fox it’s expected to radiate a copper-red hue, caused by the Earth’s atmosphere spilling or refracting sunlight into those areas enveloped by shadow.

And the view offered at that point to those in rural locations where street lighting adds less pollution should be sublime; The exceptionally dark sky will allow the Milky Way to appear, nestled in star-speckled velvet.

The entire journey through the Umbra is expected to last three hours and twenty-eight minutes. Totality begins at around 2.41am, EST and should peak at roughly 3.17am EST, before the moon finally sheds this Earthly tincture and the whole show concludes at around 5.01am.

And should tonight’s spectacle leave you keen for a sequel, you’re in luck – 2011 will include two further eclipses; The first on June 15 will be mostly visible to those in the Eastern Hemisphere and could last for an hour and 40 minutes. The second is slated for December 10th and should be easily visible across the western half of North America.

The next total eclipse that could be enjoyed by the whole continent is not due until April 14th, 2014…

Photo: Javichu


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