Monday, December 20, 2010

Party, Party, Lunar Light Party!

Golly gosh, it seems like it was just 3 months ago that we were celebrating a Harvest Moon, with Jupiter in the sky, during the Autumn Equinox:
Well tonight we've got another free lunar light show on display if you wish to stay up to witness it, dear readers. A total lunar eclipse will grace our sky visible here in Los Angeles, in Bullhead City, AZ, where my lovely sister Cheryl lives, in St. Louis, where my lovely cousin Janet lives, and on the east coast where my lovely cousin Kathy lives. By golly, its going to be visible throughout all of North America tonight starting at about 11:41PM, my time (2:41AM, EST), and will last about 3 1/2 hours.
What's a lunar eclipse Rick, you may ask. Well, it's funny that you should.
A lunar eclipse occurs at least twice a year when the moon's orbit brings it directly behind the Earth relative to the Sun, and into the Earth's shadow, therefore blocking the sunlight that normally illuminates the moon. Remember please, the moon does not emit any light of its own. It only looks like it's shinning due to the reflected light that bounces off of its surface down to Earth where we can see it. When the Earth blocks that light, then the moon will shine with a coppery glow due some ambient light bending through the Earth's atmosphere where it still reaches the moon's surface.
Starting around 1:30AM my time (PST) the moon will fully enter the Earth's shadow lasting about an hour.
One thing that makes this particular lunar eclipse special from all of the others is that it is occurring during the Winter Solstice which begins tomorrow at 3:38PM (PST), which marks the official beginning of Winter. Isn't it wonderful!
The Winter Solstice occurs of course when the Earth's axis, or let's say the North Pole, is tilted as far away from the Sun as possible, with the result being the northern hemisphere receiving the least amount of sunlight for the year. Tomorrow night will also be the longest night of the year. The nights will get shorter after tomorrow.
Okay, the last time there was an eclipse coinciding with the solstice was on December 21st, 1638, and the next time it will happen with be on December 21st, 2094.
Well I don't know about you dear readers, but I wasn't around for the last one, and I may not make for the next one, so I'm definitely going to take advantage of tonight's spectacle and stay up to have a look.
Maybe you will too!
PS: If you can't see the moon tonight due to bad weather, like the kind I'm experiencing here in Los Angeles right now (rain), then all you have to do is click on to the NASA web-site, where they will be streaming live pictures of the eclipse.

1 comment:

  1. I was planning on getting up at 2:30 a.m. to watch it.