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Red Sky at Night: Total Lunar Eclipse Nears

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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 Association

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About Bruce G. Smith

I'm a part time writer with a few articles published here and there. In addition to writing, I'm into nature and architectural photography.
  • Kal

    I just came inside after staring at the most amazing Moon Halo. Never really noticed one before but apparently they happen on full moon winter nights. I am in Western Long Island, New York on the North Shore/LI Sound, don’t know if it is visible elsewhere but go and check! This is supposed to warn of bad weather coming with the stars within the ring determining how many days away it is.

    After searching to see what this was I discovered this. I wonder if these other events are linked??

  • http://carpebiblio.blogspot.com Bruce Smith

    The ring is caused by the sun light reflected off the moon reflecting of ice particles in the earth’s atmosphere. It happens in the winter and is associated with a full moon. Think of it as a lunar rainbow.

    Was the ring still there during the eclipse, and did the ring turn red?

    I’m in Florida, and I didn’t see the ring. Hope you enjoyed the show last night.

  • Shaun

    I watched this morning from here in California. Got to witness it go into total eclipse and the redness. Ten minutes later it was too cloudy to see much but a break in the clouds every 5-10 minutes. I filmed most of what I was able to. If I get it on youtube I’ll post a link back here for it later. It was really quite amazing and it looked like a completely different planet to me. Cheers!

  • http://carpebiblio.blogspot.com Bruce Smith

    Hi Shaun, Did you have to watch it between the rain drops?