Early Christmas treat: 2010's total lunar eclipse

Dec 19, 2010 By ALICIA CHANG , AP Science Writer
This five picture combination shows various stages of a total lunar eclipse over Baghdad, Iraq, between 1:30-2:30am local time on March 4, 2007. Weather permitting, skygazers in North and Central America and a tiny sliver of South America will boast the best seats to this year's only total eclipse of the moon, scheduled for Dec. 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)

(AP) -- 'Twill be nights before Christmas and high overhead, the moon will turn brown or maybe deep red. The Earth and the sun with celestial scripts will conspire to make a lunar eclipse.

Weather permitting, sky gazers in North and Central America and a tiny sliver of South America will boast the best seats to this year's only total eclipse of the moon.

The eclipse will happen Monday night on the West Coast and during the wee hours Tuesday on the East Coast. Western Europe will only see the start of the spectacle while western Asia will catch the tail end.

The moon is normally illuminated by the sun. During a , the full moon passes through the shadow created by the Earth blocking the sun's light. Some indirect sunlight will still manage to pierce through and give the moon a ghostly color.

Since the eclipse coincides with winter solstice, the moon will appear high in the sky - a boon for skywatchers. With recent volcanic eruptions around the globe dumping tons of dust into the atmosphere, scientists predict the moon may appear darker than usual during the eclipse, glowing an eerie red or brown instead of the usual orange-yellow tinge.

North and Central America should be able to view the entire show, which is expected to last 3 1/2 hours if skies are clear. Total eclipse begins at 11:41 p.m. PST Monday or 2:41 a.m. EST Tuesday. The totality phase - when the is entirely inside Earth's shadow - will last a little over an hour.

"It's perfectly placed so that all of North America can see it," said eclipse expert Fred Espenak of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The Griffith Observatory perched on the south slope of Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles will host an eclipse party Monday evening although rain is forecast. Telescopes will be set out on the lawn for the public and astronomers will give free lectures on the eclipse's various stages.

If clouds or rain set in, the observatory plans to stream live video of the eclipse from the Internet. Among the various outfits that will show the eclipse live is NASA, which has a camera mounted at its Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

"Our event will go on rain or shine," said Griffith Observatory astronomer Anthony Cook.

Unlike solar eclipses which require protective glasses, are safe to watch with the naked eye.

U.S. Naval Observatory spokesman Geoff Chester finds solar eclipses more exciting than the lunar counterpart. But solar eclipses tend to occur in remote parts of the world while lunar eclipses are usually visible from an entire hemisphere.

"If you get skunked by bad weather, all you have to do is wait a few years for the next one to come around," Chester said.

There are two total lunar eclipses in 2011 - in June and December. North America will miss the June show and witness only a part of next December eclipse.

Explore further: SpaceX launches supplies to space station

More information: NASA eclipse page: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html

Griffith Observatory: http://www.griffithobservatory.org

4 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Get Ready For Total Lunar Eclipse Wednesday Night

Feb 19, 2008

In the late night hours of Feb. 20, 2008, a total lunar eclipse will dazzle the night sky. And this lunar eclipse may be worth staying up for, because it will be the last one until December 2010.

Partial lunar eclipse visible in western skies

Jun 27, 2010

(AP) -- Skygazers got a treat Saturday when a portion of the moon crossed into the Earth's shadow during a partial lunar eclipse visible in the western United States and Canada, the Pacific and eastern Asia.

Cloud obscures annular eclipse

Oct 03, 2005

Clouds obscured an annular eclipse for most sky-gazers across Europe and Asia Monday as the moon passed in front of the sun.

Recommended for you

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

17 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

19 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

19 hours ago

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

Ceres and Vesta Converge in Virgo

22 hours ago

Don't let them pass you by. Right now and continuing through July, the biggest and brightest asteroids will be running on nearly parallel tracks in the constellation Virgo and so close together they'll easily ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.