A total lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth and moon are almost exactly in line, with the moon and sun on opposite sides of our home planet. … and we are just about to have one …NOW…. well not this precise moment, but in the next few hours.
And to make it even more amazing, its also the Winter Solstice. Last time this happened it was 1638, so if you miss this one, sorry … but it will be a bit of a wait for the next.
OK, so what exactly is going to happen?
The alignment will cause the full moon to appear much dimmer than usual,with sunlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere it will give the lunar surface a deep reddish hue. About an hour after it all starts a more significant dimming begins as the moon enters into the darker part of Earth’s shadow becomes completely eclipsed over by about 3 hours in.
And when exactly can you see all this?
- The eclipse begins on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21st, at 1:33 am EST (Monday, Dec. 20th, at 10:33 pm PST).
- Totality commences at 02:41 am EST (11:41 pm PST) and lasts for 72 minutes.
- The eclipse begins on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21st, at 5:28 am GMT
- Totality commences at 6.32am GMT and lasts for 72 minutes.
Confused about those time differences? OK, think now … Planet Earth, position of US vs Position of UK on that globe … got it? … Good.
In London, the moon will be only three degrees above the northwestern horizon and may be obscured by buildings (or clouds … well what the heck folks, it is the UK). It will appear higher in the sky in Northern Ireland and the Western Isles of Scotland, so if you are further up north you get a better view.
One other tip, least you had failed to notice … (we lead busy lives these days, so some just might not have noticed) … its winter … hint, that white stuff on the ground is called snow, it gives you a subtle clue here … outside at night its fracking cold, so you might not wish to hang about outside for several hours … best time should be 03:17 am EST … 17 minutes past midnight PST … 07:15 GMT … That’s when the Moon will be in deepest shadow, displaying the most fantastic shades of coppery red
Once final question … why red? The NASA web site explains it …
A quick trip to the Moon provides the answer: Imagine yourself standing on a dusty lunar plain looking up at the sky. Overhead hangs Earth, nightside down, completely hiding the sun behind it. The eclipse is underway. You might expect Earth seen in this way to be utterly dark, but it’s not. The rim of the planet is on fire! As you scan your eye around Earth’s circumference, you’re seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once. This incredible light beams into the heart of Earth’s shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the Moon into a great red orb.
Back on Earth, the shadowed Moon paints newly fallen snow with unfamiliar colors–not much luster, but lots of beauty.
Enjoy the show.