Shadowed moon worth watching



December 18, 2010 - 12:00 AM

There will be a total lunar eclipse Monday night — technically, Tuesday morning: the eclipse begins after midnight. The timing means you need to give up some sleep, but considering the quality of the eclipse, it might be worth it.
A total lunar eclipse takes place when the moon passes through the shadow of the earth. The moon will begin to enter earth’s shadow at 12:33 a.m. Tuesday. The shadow of the earth on the moon in this phase is distinctly curved, showing that the earth is round. The best time to view the curved shadow is at about 1:10 a.m.
At this time, the show picks up speed.
By 1:41 a.m., the moon will be completely engulfed in the earth’s shadow. The moon will stay dark from 1:41 to 2:53 a.m.
During this phase, the moon takes on a dark red color. Two factors determine the color of the eclipsed moon.
One is how close the moon gets to the center of the earth’s shadow; the second is the clarity of earth’s atmosphere.
The earth’s shadow is darker toward its center and the moon will be passing across the northern section of the shadow. This means the lower part of the moon will probably appear darker than the upper half.
At 2:53 a.m., the moon will begin to leave the earth’s shadow. It will slowly slip from the earth’s shadow and once again regain it’s shinning glory as the brightest object in the night sky.
The eclipse will officially end at 4:01 a.m.

UNLIKE SOLAR eclipses, no special optics or glasses are needed to watch the moon’s eclipse, although binoculars will give you a spectacular view. Telescopes are not necessary.
The next total lunar eclipse visible across the Americas will not be for another three years, on April 14, 2014, so be sure to enjoy the heavens’ early Christmas present.

(Editor’s note: Mike Myer, Humboldt, is an avid astronomer and occasional notifies the Register’s readers about upcoming celestial events.)

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