Thursday, December 16, 2010


A rare astronomical event will happen Tuesday December 21 in the early hours of the morning.  The Sun, Earth, and Moon will be in perfect alignment and the Earth's shadow will cha-cha across the face of the Moon.  This is the TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE!  The action begins at 1:32 AM (Eastern Standard Time) when the first visible part of the shadow eats away the left side of the Moon.  I especially love to watch this part because of the precision - it happens exactly, to the second, when astronomer predict it.  That's the time to hoot a holler at the Moon like a real "Luna-tic". 

The Moon will continue to move into the darkest part of the Earth's shadow (the umbra) and turns an eerie shade of orange.  This will occur from 2:40-3:53am.  Why orange?  You're seeing the sunlight bend off of the the atmosphere of the Earth and still getting to the Moon with a slightly different hue.  You can think of it as the reflected light of all the sunrises and sunsets of the Earth giving the Moon a similar glow.

Then the Moon will slide out of the shadow and return to a normal full Moon at 5:01am.  And then that's it.  We won't have another one in the United States until 2014.  So don't miss it!  Either set an alarm to wake up to the eclipse or stay out all night! 

For more on the eclipse you can check out my videos for the program Jack Horkheimer's Star Gazer.  I'm privileged to be the guest host of this program that is on PBS across the country.  Look for me on your TV late at night or watch the eclipse videos at:
1 Minute:
5 Minute: