Are you ready? As promised, here comes more detailed information on the 2010 total lunar eclipse. Step inside and find out where and when to watch!
The eclipse begins for eastern North America on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21st, at 1:33 am EST and occurs on Monday night, Dec. 20th, at 10:33 pm PST for western North America. At that time, Earth’s shadow will appear as a dark-red crescent at the edge of the lunar disk. It takes about an hour for the Earth’s shadow to fully encompass the visible side of the Moon. Totality commences at 02:41 am EST (11:41 pm PST) and lasts for 72 minutes. Western Europe and the northwestern portion of Africa will also be treated to a portion of the eclipse at moonset. The point of deepest shadow will occur at 08:17 UT and totality ends 36 minutes later at 08:53 UT. At that time, a silver sliver will once again appear along the lunar limb, where for one hour and eight minutes it will continue until the Moon passes out of the umbral shadow at 10:01 UT. From there it will pass into the penumbral shadow for an additional hour and four minutes until the show ends at 11:05 UT.
Where will the Moon appear? Of course it will be along the ecliptic plane and in very good company – riding high above Orion. Be sure to look for a triple red treat as the show forms a triangle with blushing Betelgeuse and ruddy Aldebaran. As the Moon darkens, be sure to look for wonderful unaided eye deep space objects you can’t see during a full Moon – like the Plieades (M45) and the Great Orion Nebula (M42). What a Christmas treat!
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Photographing or videotaping a total lunar eclipse is quite easy, but remember if you live in a cold climate that there are a few very important rules to follow. Number one is to be sure to protect your hands. It’s very easy to get involved with the equipment and ignore what seems like a slight discomfort. You don’t want to experience freezing your fingers to a metal surface or risking frostbite! The second rule is to remember that cold batteries drain very, very quickly. You can easily avoid frustration by simply keeping spares somewhere handy next to your skin. Of course, getting to them might be a ticklish situation! The last rule to remember is simply to dress for success. Multiple loose layers of clothing, hat, gloves and proper footgear are a must where the winter season means bitter cold temperatures.
Now all that’s left is just to let the hours count down… and enjoy!
Fun Facts from NASA: This lunar eclipse falls on the date of the northern winter solstice. How rare is that? Total lunar eclipses in northern winter are fairly common. There have been three of them in the past ten years alone. A lunar eclipse smack-dab on the date of the solstice, however, is unusual. Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years. “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,” says Chester. “Fortunately we won’t have to wait 372 years for the next one…that will be on 2094 DEC 21.”