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Total Lunar Eclipse Coming to North America Monday Night

December 18, 2010

If you are in North America and have clear skies,  check out the total eclipse of the moon by the earth’s shadow. When it starts  on Monday night December 20 depends on where you are.  Here on Mountain Standard Time (MST) the earth’s penumbra will start to cover the moon at 11:33 PM. After midnight,  totality (the really cool part)  begins around 12:41 AM and lasts about 72 minutes, until 1:53 AM .  Nature’s heliocentric demonstration will end promptly at 3:01 AM.

Lunar eclipses aren’t that rare but the last one visible in North America on the date of the Winter Solstice was in the 17th century.  For every total eclipse visible where you are, there are many visible only in parts of the world where you aren’t, or are only  partial eclipses. This is the Real Deal for folks in North America, right on our doorstep. You don’t have to sign up for one of those expensive cruises to go see it, like the ones they advertise in Sky and Telescope. Just step outside and find the moon in the SSW sky. Telescopes & binoculars are useful but often the naked eye viewing is more satisfying because you see it all in the larger context of the night sky.

But we must give sacrifices and offerings to the gods to ensure clear, dark skies!

Stargazers are as much at the mercy of the weather as sailors of old were.

Here are some links for more information:


UPDATE 12/21/10:  The thick black cloud cover prevented me or anyone in my area from seeing any of the eclipse. I knew from my Starry Night planetiarium program where the full moon must have been, but it was undetectible through the darkness. I checked before, during, and after the eclipse but could see nothing but dark clouds. I hope some of you in other parts of the country got to see something, at least.  As i said, night-sky watchers are unavoidably dependent on the weather.

UPDATE #2: The next total eclipse of the moon visible in the continental USA will be on  April 15, 2014. Only a little more than 3 years from now–and April should mean better weather.

2 Comments leave one →
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