Lunar eclipse meets winter solstice
Go howl at the moon tonight. A confluence of events means North Americans will have prime viewing seats to a total lunar eclipse of a full moon on the winter solstice.
The moon will pass through the shadow of the Earth early Tuesday morning on the East Coast, turning it a deep reddish brown. Normally, the moon is illuminated by the sun, but the Earth will cut off that light source for a few hours, creating a ghostly moon apparition in the night sky.
The partial eclipse will begin at 1:33 a.m. Eastern, and the total eclipse will last between 2:41 a.m and 3:53 a.m. The partial eclipse will end at 5:01 a.m. (See a graphic of the phases of the eclipse here). Thanks to the confluence with the winter solstice, the moon will appear at the highest peak in the sky, affording better views for all would-be astronomers (and unlike solar eclipses, you can watch the moon with your bare eyes).
In D.C. the Capital Weather Gang is predicting just partly cloudy weather, though temperatures will drop into the freezing. The moon should be visible even if there is a light cloud covering.
This will be the first and only total lunar eclipse of 2010 and next year's lunar eclipses will not be as viewable from North America. For the winter-weary, NASA has a list of livestreaming options, so you can still see the moon, only from an indoor vantage point. Everyone else brave enough to weather the cold, howl away.
Livestream from SpaceVidCast:
Some spots that are hosting lunar eclipse viewing parties:
University of Maryland Observatory
3300 Metzerott Rd
College Park, MD 20742
Griffith Park Observatory
2800 East Observatory Road
Los Angeles, CA 90027
1300 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
Google's teamed up with Slooh Sky camera to broadcast a live feed of the event on Google Earth. Just click on the planets icon in the Google Earth toolbar to switch to Sky mode and, in the layers panel, open the Current Sky Events folder and click on the Slooh Space Camera layer.
Post has been updated to include more exact times of eclipse.
| December 20, 2010; 7:51 AM ET
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