Amazing Spectacle: Total Lunar Eclipse Monday Night


JF-Expert Member
Nov 1, 2010
For a few hours on the night of Dec. 20 to Dec. 21, the attention of tens of millions of people will be drawn skyward, where the mottled, coppery globe of our moon will hang completely immersed in the long, tapering cone of shadow cast out into space by our Earth. If the weather is clear, favorably placed skywatchers will have a view of one of nature's most beautiful spectacles: a [COLOR=#366388 ! important][COLOR=#366388 ! important]total [COLOR=#366388 ! important]eclipse [/COLOR][COLOR=#366388 ! important]of [/COLOR][COLOR=#366388 ! important]the [/COLOR][COLOR=#366388 ! important]moon[/COLOR][/COLOR][/COLOR].

Unlike a total eclipse of the sun, which is only visible to those in the path of totality, eclipses of the moon can usually be observed from one's own backyard. The passage of the moon through the [COLOR=#366388 ! important][COLOR=#366388 ! important]Earth's [COLOR=#366388 ! important]shadow[/COLOR][/COLOR][/COLOR] is equally visible from all places within the hemisphere where the moon is above the horizon.

The total phase of the upcoming event will be visible across all of North and South America, as well as the northern and western part of Europe, and a small part of northeast Asia, including Korea and much of Japan. Totality will also be visible in its entirety from the North Island of New Zealand and Hawaii — a potential viewing audience of about 1.5 billion people. This will be the first opportunity from any place on earth to see the moon undergo a total eclipse in 34 months. [Amazing photos of a total lunar eclipse]

This star chart shows where in the sky the upcoming [COLOR=#366388 ! important][COLOR=#366388 ! important]lunar [COLOR=#366388 ! important]eclipse[/COLOR][/COLOR][/COLOR] will appear. And check this NASA lunar eclipse chart to see how visible the eclipse will be from different regions around the world.

Stages of the eclipse
There is nothing complicated about viewing this celestial spectacle. Unlike an eclipse of the sun, which necessitates special viewing precautions in order to avoid eye damage, an eclipse of the moon is perfectly safe to watch. All you'll need to watch are your eyes, but binoculars or a telescope will give a much nicer view.
The eclipse will actually begin when the moon enters the faint outer portion, or penumbra, of the Earth's shadow a little over an hour before it begins moving into the umbra. The penumbra, however, is all but invisible to the eye until the moon becomes deeply immersed in it. Sharp-eyed viewers may get their first glimpse of the penumbra as a faint smudge on the left part of the [COLOR=#366388 ! important][COLOR=#366388 ! important]moon's [COLOR=#366388 ! important]disk[/COLOR][/COLOR][/COLOR] at or around 6:15 UT (on Dec. 21) which corresponds to 1:15 a.m. Eastern Time or 10:15 p.m. Pacific Time (on Dec. 20).

The most noticeable part of this eclipse will come when the moon begins to enter the Earth's dark inner shadow (called the umbra). A small scallop of darkness will begin to appear on the moon's left edge at 6:33 UT (on Dec. 21) corresponding to 1:33 a.m. EST or 10:33 p.m. PST (on Dec. 20).

The moon is expected to take 3 hours and 28 minutes to pass completely through the umbra.
The total phase of the eclipse will last 72 minutes beginning at 7:41 UT (on Dec. 21), corresponding to 2:41 a.m. EST or 11:41 p.m. PST (on Dec. 20).
At the moment of mid-totality (8:17 UT/3:17 a.m. EST/12:17 a.m. PST), the moon will stand directly overhead from a point in the North Pacific Ocean about 800 miles (1,300 km) west of La Paz, Mexico.

The moon will pass entirely out of the Earth's umbra at 10:01 UT/5:01 a.m. EST/2:01 a.m. PST and the last evidence of the penumbra should vanish about 15 or 20 minutes later.

Color and brightness in question
During totality, although the moon will be entirely immersed in the Earth's shadow, it likely will not disappear from sight. Rather, it should appear to turn a coppery red color, a change caused by the Earth's atmosphere bending or refracting sunlight into the shadow.

Since the Earth's shadow is cone-shaped and extends out into space for about 844,000 miles (1,358,000 km), sunlight will be strained through a sort of "double sunset," all around the rim of the Earth, into its shadow and then onto the moon.
However, because of the recent eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano last spring and the Merapi volcano in Indonesia in October, one and possibly even two clouds of ash and dust might be floating high above the Earth. As a result, the moon may appear darker than usual during this eclipse; during totality, parts of the moon might even become black and invisible.

A careful description of the colors seen on the totally eclipsed moon and their changes is valuable. The hues depend on the optical equipment used, usually appearing more vivid with the naked eye than in telescopes. The French astronomer Andre-Louis Danjon introduced the following five-point scale of lunar luminosity ("L") to classify eclipses:
L = 0: Very dark eclipse, moon almost invisible, especially in mid-totality.
L = 1: Dark eclipse, gray or brownish coloration, details distinguishable only with difficulty.
L = 2: Deep red or rust-colored eclipse, with a very dark central part in the shadow, and outer edge of the umbra relatively bright.
L = 3: Brick red eclipse, usually with a bright or yellow rim to the shadow.
L = 4: Very bright copper-red or orange eclipse, with a bluish very bright shadow rim.
Examine the moon at mid-totality and also near the beginning and end of totality to get an impression of both the inner and outer umbra. In noting an L observation, state the time and optical means (naked eye, binoculars or telescope) that is used. We invite readers to e-mail their Danjon estimate for this eclipse (along with any pictures they'd like to share) to

At mid-totality, from rural locations far from city lights, the darkness of the sky is impressive. Faint stars and the [COLOR=#366388 ! important][COLOR=#366388 ! important]Milky [COLOR=#366388 ! important]Way[/COLOR][/COLOR][/COLOR] will appear, and the surrounding landscape will take on a somber hue. As totality ends, the eastern edge of the moon begins to emerge from the umbra, and the sequence of events repeats in reverse order until the spectacle is over.

Fringe effects
Interestingly, from most of New Zealand, a slice of northeast Australia, Papua, New Guinea, southwest Japan and Korea, the moon will rise during totality on the evening of Dec. 21. Because of low altitude and bright evening twilight, observers in these locations may not see much of the moon at all until it begins to emerge from out of the Earth's shadow.
Conversely, much of the United Kingdom and parts of western and northern Europe will see the moon set during totality on the morning of Dec. 21. Because of low altitude and bright morning twilight, observers in these locations may not see much of the moon at all after it slips completely into the Earth's shadow.

Past and future
The last total lunar eclipse occurred on Feb. 20 to Feb. 21, 2008 and was visible from most of the Americas, as well as Europe, much of Africa and western Asia. In 2011, there will be two total lunar eclipses. The first, on June 15, will be visible primarily from the Eastern Hemisphere and will have an unusually long duration of totality lasting one hour and 40 minutes.

Another [COLOR=#366388 ! important][COLOR=#366388 ! important]total [COLOR=#366388 ! important]lunar [/COLOR][COLOR=#366388 ! important]eclipse[/COLOR][/COLOR][/COLOR] will occur on Dec. 10 and will be visible over the western half of North America before moonset. For the next total lunar eclipse that will be visible across all of North America, we must wait until April 14 to April 15, 2014.


JF-Expert Member
Nov 1, 2010
A total lunar eclipse of 21st December will bypass us completely, so except for the partial lunar eclipse in January, we will have to wait another six more months until June 15 2011, to see a spectacularly very deep total lunar eclipse centred almost directly over us.
More tangible is the Geminid Meteor Shower on the night of 13-14 December. Dust from space hitting our atmosphere in the area of the Gemini constellation will cause meteors to appear to originate from that area of the sky. The Moon will have set just after midnight, which is the right time to start watching the meteors since the Gemini constellation will be high in the sky. Find an area with minimal lighting, get your eyes adapted and lie back on a mat to catch a glimpse of these shooting stars that, according to some can make your wish come true!
Jupiter outshines all objects in the sky (except the Moon of course) and is high in the western sky, where is it more comfortable to watch. Even a small telescope will allow you to see the parallel stripes that show the equatorial clouds on Jupiter. Even more prominent are the four Galilean moons of Jupiter that appear as star-like points through a telescope, strung in a line along the planet’s equator. Watching these over just a couple of hours can show their positions shifting around the giant planet, just as planets move around the Sun.
Mercury is at its peak and will soon glide down into the western horizon. If you can catch a glimpse of it through a telescope in the coming week just after sunset, you may be able to see its crescent phase, as its orbit is inside that of Earth’s.
The Moon was New on 6th December and will be in its quarter phase (that is half shape) on13th when it will be close to Jupiter also. Quarter phase is the best time to observe the Moon through a telescope, since the low sun there, at the Moon’s light-dark edge, called the “Terminator”, shows evening time there. This results in long shadows that highlight the lunar mountains and craters. Full Moon will be on 20th and last quarter on 28th December.
The night skies are beginning to display many prominent constellations in the sky, but to get the most enjoyment out of it this month, watch a bit late in the night. The brightest star in the sky is now quite prominent in the south-east as the neck star in the dog shaped constellation Canis Major (Big Dog). An arch of stars spanning eastwards reaching north among the dense collection of stars of the Milky Way begins with Canis Major giving way to the magnificent Orion, the hunter, which in turn leads to Taurus the bull, which contains the distinctly visible red giant star Aldebaran. The last two constellations in the arch are Perseus, containing the famous variable star Algol, and ending with M shaped Cassiopeia in the north. Close to Taurus is the famous star twinkling cluster, Plaiedes, also known as the ‘seven little sisters’. Just off the arch westwards but still close to the Milky Way can be found the Square of Pegasus. The Andromeda galaxy, which is 2 million light years away yet still just visible to the naked eye as a patch of nebulosity in dark skies, lies between the Square and Perseus, 40 degrees above the north horizon.
Among the most easily identifiable constellations is ORION, which we see as a huge rectangle laying on its side in the eastern sky. It has two very bright stars at the end of its diagonals: Rigel on the top right and the giant star Betelgeuse sparkling red on the bottom left of Orion. The other diagonal is marked by three stars close together in the middle, called the ‘Belt of Orion’. It is embedded in a dense cloudy nebulosity of interstellar matter that is an active nursery of new stars as the inexorable pull of gravity gathers the pace after millions of years. The nebula in Orion can easily be made out with the naked eye and is breathtaking even in a modest pair of binoculars or a small telescope.
Among the Zodiacal constellations spanning east to west are Gemini the twins cutting into Taurus, leading to less prominent Aires, Pisces, Aquarius, and Capricorn and ends with Sagittarius, setting in the west swamped by sunlight. There are also several stars that you should try to identify because they are among the brightest in the sky. In the last half of the month Procyon rises in the south east with Sirius already high and Canopus in the south: These three brilliant stars form an almost straight line and together with Capella also rising in the north east, form a reasonable right angle triangle.
The best time to watch the International Space Station this month is on 16th and 18th December. On both days it rises in the south west horizon and moves across the sky to the north east. On 16th it rises soon after 7:30 pm and glides across the sky for nearly five minutes as an extremely bright star. On 18th it rises just after 6:45 pm and is in the sky for five minutes also. Check the exact time at: by entering your location.

By Dr. N. T. Jiwaji


JF-Expert Member
Nov 1, 2010
Achane uvivu wa kusoma mbona hii habari hapo chini inasema wazi kuwa bongo hatutaona! kweli nimeamini huu usemi, ukitaka kuficha maarifa weka kwenye maandishi!

"A total lunar eclipse of 21st December will bypass us completely, so except for the partial lunar eclipse in January, we will have to wait another six more months until June 15 2011, to see a spectacularly very deep total lunar eclipse centred almost directly over us."


JF-Expert Member
Aug 21, 2008
Dr. N. T. Jiwaji

Weka paragraph please or better still URL ya Source website!

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