Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Lunar Eclipse on February 20

On Wednesday, February 20 you'll have a chance to observe a total lunar eclipse. On the 7th of this month, the Moon will cross the plane of Earth's orbit (called the ecliptic) precisely when it is aligned with the Earth and Sun (at the New Moon phase) and a solar eclipse will be observed from parts of the southern hemisphere. On the night of February 20-21 - just 2 weeks after the solar eclipse - the Moon will once again cross the ecliptic, only this time in Earth's shadow at the Full Moon phase. Just before 9 PM EST, the Moon will enter the darkest part of shadow of Earth, called the umbra, and by 10 PM the Moon will be entirely within the umbra. The moon will appear an orangy-red color, a result of the red light of sunset being refracted into Earth's umbra as it passes through our atmosphere. The photo to the right, taken during the lunar eclipse of March 7, 2007, illustrates that nicely.

The shadow will move from left to right across the Moon as the Moon moves eastward in it's orbit around the Earth.

Make plans to get out to see the eclipse that night. Lunar eclipses are not all that rare, but they are definitely worth observing.

Click here for a detailed diagram and observing times (also available in printable .pdf format)

No comments: