Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar Eclipse Wed. Night!

I subscribe to an astronomy newsletter (you can sign up for it here) and today for this news that I wanted to share with you. We'll be watching (I hope we don't have a cloudy night!!). Will you??:

Total Lunar Eclipse - February 21
It's eclipse time again! If you were reading the Update last summer, you'll remember the eclipse report from August, and all the wonderful pictures sent in by Update readers. On the night of Wednesday, February 20, there will be another total eclipse of the Moon favoring North and South America and also western Europe and Africa.

As we've seen in previous eclipse coverage, a lunar eclipse occurs when the Full Moon lines up with the Earth and the Sun in such a way that the Moon passes behind the Earth and into its shadow.

The first stage of an eclipse is the penumbral stage, when the Moon passes through the Earth's "penumbra" or partial shadow. This stage is not very noticable since only a subtle darkening of the Moon occurs.

The next stage is the partial stage, when the Moon begins to enter the "umbra" or full shadow of the Earth. At this point, the curved shadow of the Earth can be seen to "take a bite" out of the Moon's face.

Totality begins when the Moon fully enters the Earth's umbra. During totality, the Moon can look very dark. At other times, a ruddy glow can be seen on the Moon's surface, as red sunlight filtered through the Earth's atmosphere shines onto the Moon, giving it a reddish-orange color.

This total eclipse is very well placed for observers in North America. The penumbral stage will begin at 7:34 PM eastern standard time (EST), and everyone east of the Mississippi will be able to see the entire eclipse. The partial stage will begin at 8:42 PM EST, and the Moon will be slowly gobbled up by the Earth's shadow until totality begins at 10:00 PM EST. This time around, totality will only last until 10:51 PM EST since the Moon is only grazing through the edge of the Earth's shadow. After totality, partial eclipse will past until 12:09 AM EST as the Moon leaves the Earth's umbra.

Observers in western North America will see this eclipse at earlier local times. The Moon will rise in the penumbral stage as seen from west Texas through Alberta. People on the west coast in northern California and Oregon will see the Moon rising in partial eclipse.

The eclipse will be visible over Europe and Africa and western Asia, but this will be more for night owls and early birds! Totality begins at 3:00 AM on Thursday morning in the United Kingdom, and even later at points east. The Moon will be setting at various stages of eclipse as seen from as far east as Afganistan! So if you or a missionary friend is in that part of the world, be sure to wake up and check out this eclipse before sunrise on Thursday morning, February 21!

Be sure to catch this one folks, this is the last total lunar eclipse visible over North America until 2010! As before, if you have a nice view of this eclipse, please send along a detailed report. We're looking for colorful descriptions folks, so please, tell us a story! Also, please share any nice pix of this eclipse and we'll include them in the next Update. I'm expecting solid clouds over Cleveland, so this is the most our family might see!

No comments: