Friday, December 09, 2011

Last Lunar Eclipse Until 2014

Total Eclipse of the Moon in the morning

"Waking up before sunrise can be tough to do, especially on a weekend. On Saturday, Dec. 10th, you might be glad you did. A total eclipse of the Moon will be visible in the early morning skies of western Northern America. The action begins around 4:45 am Pacific Standard Time when the red shadow of Earth first falls across the lunar disk. By 6:05 am Pacific Time, the Moon will be fully engulfed in red light. This event—the last total lunar eclipse until 2014—is visible from the Pacific side of North America, across the entire Pacific Ocean to Asia and Eastern Europe.

For people in the western United States the eclipse is deepest just before local dawn. Face west to see the red Moon sinking into the horizon as the sun rises behind your back. It’s a rare way to begin the day.

Not only will the Moon be beautifully red, it will also be inflated by the Moon illusion. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. In fact, a low Moon is no wider than any other Moon (cameras prove it) but the human brain insists otherwise. To observers in the western USA, therefore, the eclipse will appear super-sized."

One of my most memorable viewings as a crackpot amateur astronomer was a total lunar eclipse about 15 years ago when I was living on the left coast. Incredibly it included an occultation of Saturn which really was a heckuva treat. The moon was a deep blood red that eclipse, and the sky was unbelievably clear for the usually rainy northwest.

added - I monitored the eclipse this morning. Started about 5:45 our time and began from the top down. It reached 100% just as the moon got to the horizon and was yellowish in color this time. That last full eclipse apparently was a few years after Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines and the dust was still in the atmosphere, making the moon reddish in color.


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