Written by: on December 9, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

Look in the western sky Saturday morning before dawn, and if the weather is clear and you’re in the right place, you will be rewarded with the last lunar eclipse of 2011.

For just under an hour, the disk of the full moon will almost disappear, turning a dark, rusty red.  The catch for Americans is that you’ll miss almost everything unless you’re west of the Mississippi.  Totality — when the moon is completely consumed by Earth’s shadow — begins at 6:06 a.m. Pacific time Saturday, and ends at 6:57 a.m. Even on the Pacific coast, dawn will start to brighten the sky before the eclipse is over.

Still, if you happen to be up, a lunar eclipse can be a quiet, refreshing experience.  Depending on the atmospheric conditions where you are, the moon may turn a rich orange, or it may become hard to pick out in the sky. The reddish hue comes from sunlight that is bent by Earth’s atmosphere. As happens during a vivid sunrise or sunset, most colors other than red are absorbed by the air. Read More

Did You Know?
A lunar eclipse takes place when the moon, following its orbit around us, passes directly behind Earth as seen from the sun.  It is the opposite of a solar eclipse, when the moon passes between the sun and Earth. Since the moon’s orbit is slightly tilted, the bodies do not align perfectly during most months — but the rules of orbital mechanics are such that in any given year, there will be at least two and no more than seven solar or lunar eclipses.

See Google’s Lunar Eclipse “Doodle” from June 2011

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