On December 21st, two astronomical events will take place: a total lunar eclipse will coincide with the winter solstice. The lunar eclipse will begin at 1:33 am EST. The moon will be totally covered by the earth’s shadow 2:41 am EST, and the coverage will last 72 minutes. The moon will glow red. Since several areas of the United States expect to be covered in snow, the red from the moon reflected off the snow should provide an eerie morning light.
The eclipse should be visible from most of North and South America. NASA recommends 3:17 am as the most opportune moment to catch the light show in the United States. Don’t miss the show; a winter solstice lunar eclipse doesn’t occur that often. This last happened 372 years ago in 1628. The next one will take place in 2094.
A lunar eclipse happens when the sun, earth, and moon are directly aligned. The earth is not large enough to block all of the sunlight. The earth exhibits a bright red halo all the way around its perimeter, and this red light is reflected off the surface of the moon. In the case of the upcoming lunar eclipse, the red reflection from the moon will also reflect off the snow.
The winter solstice marks the change of seasons from fall to winter. It is also the shortest day of the year or the day with the least number of hours of sunlight. After the solstice days will begin to have more hours of daylight. Many ancient cultures celebrated on this date. They saw the lengthening of the days as a new beginning, a promise of better things to come. During the winter solstice the earth’s axis is at its furthest point from the sun.
If you live in an area with no clouds that night and have snow on the ground, you should see a great sight. Dress warmly, grab a cup of hot chocolate, and take pleasure in the show. Even in areas without snow, you will be treated to a once in a lifetime event so take advantage!
Photo Credit: M P Mobberley, British Astronomical AssociationPowered by Sidelines