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Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Solstice Total Lunar Eclipse TONITE!

Total Lunar Eclipse as seen on Aol News. site

Heribert Proepper, AP
The moon appears totally covered by shadow as the Earth passes between the 
moon and the sun during a lunar eclipse in January 2001.
Tonite's Total Lunar Eclipse will be the first to happen on the Winter Solstice in hundreds of years!

AOL.News has the story -

Unlike a solar eclipse, eclipses of the moon can usually be observed anywhere in the hemisphere where the moon is above the horizon.

This particular lunar eclipse also may be seen in totality from northern and western Europe, some of northeast Asia, Hawaii and New Zealand, according to In total, some 1.5 billion people may have a chance to see the full eclipse, the website reported.

Total lunar eclipses during winter in the northern hemisphere are fairly common, 
NASA says. However, a lunar eclipse falling precisely on the date of the solstice is quite rare.

Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years for NASA.

"Since Year 1, I can only find one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is 1638 DEC 21," Chester said, according to NASA. "Fortunately we won't have to wait 372 years for the next one ... that will be on 2094 DEC 21."

This year's event will take 3 hours and 38 minutes. The eclipse begins on Tuesday at 1:33 a.m. ET, when the Earth's dark-red shadow will turn up on the edge of the moon, according to NASA. It will take about an hour for the shadow to cover the entire moon. Totality begins at 2:41 a.m. and lasts for 72 minutes. 

If you only have time for a quick look, NASA recommends that you take a peek 3:17 a.m. ET. That's when the moon will be fully covered in an amber light. 

This puts the Lunar Eclipse event timing for us in Pacific Time Zone beginning at approximately 11pm.
Unfortunately, we may be still engulfed in clouds in our Northwest winter weather tonite. But, we can always hope for a break in the clouds, and it is certainly worth a look at 11pm to see if the weather might cooperate. If you have kids, it is worth staying up late this one time to have a look.

I have a memory from long ago about this phenomenon. When I was about 10 years old, I remember my dad waking my sister and I up at about 2am to sit and look out the window one night at a lunar eclipse. 
It was a special little moment that helped us appreciate the world of science and space. This was just about the time when America was transfixed by the space flight mania which was about to begin. Ironically, my Dad and Mom are coming for a visit tonite from back east. 

So, give your kids and grandkids an event to put in their memory banks. How cool that it is happening on the Winter Solstice? 

From, a handy list of TOP TEN LUNAR ECLIPSE FACTS!


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