Friday, February 8, 2008

Angry Red Moon In Earth's Shadow

You're looking at our magical Luna, in full rusty colors, as she is shadowed by the earth, who's edge is seen in white.  This is how ancient Greeks were able to determine the size of the earth, much larger than the moon.  And it's time for this event to happen again, the Full Moon being eclipsed by the Earth's shadow on February 20-21st.  Everyone will see this no matter where on earth you are.

For the Americas, we'll see the shadow of the earth totally swallow the full moon on Wednesday the 20th from 10:00 pm to 11:00 pm, EST.  For Europe, it'll happen in the early hours of Thursday, the 21st.  During this hour as the moon passes through it's stages, the sight will be incredible.

There are five stages Luna will go through, the first being called the penumbra.  When Luna crosses the inner part of earth's shadow, it's called the umbra, and this is when no direct sunlight will hit the surface of the moon.  Few sights are more eerie or impressive than watching this deep shadow creeping along, minute by minute, across the bright surface of the moon. 

Total lunar eclipse begins when the very last bit of the moon slips into umbra, and will last about 52 minutes, sometimes longer.  This is called totality.  We'll all see it. 

As Luna continues in her orbit in an eastward direction, the stages will unwind in reverse order and the leading edge will emerge into the sunlight.  At this stage, totality is ended and the eclipse is once again partial, just as it started.

As the final duskiness gradually fades, for the next 40 minutes or so, you'll see a very bright, white Luna shining in the sky as if nothing at all had happened.  It's a truly magical sight. 

The umbra is the part of earth's shadow where the sun is completely blocked.  So why does Luna glow in that eerie reddish-orange light, instead of blacked out?  A wondrous answer:

The red glow on the moon is coming from all the sunrises and sunsets occuring around the earth at the same time.

If you happen to be standing on the moon during this event, it would be more obvious to you what is happening.  You'd see the Sun covered by a dark earth, which is ringed by a bright band of the colors of sunrises and sunsets.  Just fastastic.

You might want to watch for other colors, especially if you have binocs or a scope.  Time-lapse photography has caught many "flying shadows" in purple and blue-green shades crossing the face of the moon during totality.  This oddity is caused by features of the earth as our atmosphere bends and scatters sunlight, as the sun itself changes position behind the earth. 

We're really fortunate this time, it should be one amazing sight as all features fall into place.  Look close and you'll see a very bright Saturn in the picture.  All in all, you cannot miss it. 

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Basics courtesy of Gryphon, S&T, star charts. 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

17 comments:

wwfbison said...

Very interesting, thank you for explaining the stages.  I can't wait to see this magical show ~ I am marking my calendar.
Lisa

shrbrisc said...

great entry thanks for sharing
hugs
Sherry

attitudeslc said...

Oh geeze I do pray that the skies are clear that night.  I so want to see it!  Hey if it is going to be a clear night head up my way and we can sit out in the hot tub and watch together from there!

Hugs Rosemary

ma24179 said...

That sounds like it will be lovely! have a wonderful day. -Missy http://journals.aol.com/ma24179/MISSYZSTUFF

motoxmom72 said...

Thanks for the beautiful pic and the "heads-up" when  it will occur.

*Hugs*
Gina

ksquester said...

How exciting........Luke, the wonder dog and I will drink and howl at the moon!  Anne

pamal3 said...

Sounds amazing. So interesting. I love to look up at the moon and the stars on a crisp clear night. Love Pam xx
http://journals.aol.co.uk/pamal3/almost-40/

pharmolo said...

Thanks for the reminder, Cathy. But I'm not so sure whether I'll be up at 3 am  :-)

mutualaide said...

Cathy!  I've marked the calender so I don't forget.  Not that the local meteoroligists would let us!

kirkbyj05 said...

Dear Cathy,
such lovely photos of the moon and earth.
I have set myself a reminder to watch out for the eclipse.  I hope we have a clear night.
Hugs
Jeanie xxx

rdautumnsage said...

Thanks for the heads up hon! I've written it down so I can watch for it. (Hugs) Indigo

rockoned7 said...

Look forward to see that, so thanks for the information. ED

gdireneoe said...

Oh gosh, I can't wait for this!  THANK YOU for sharing.  I've always been fascinated by the sky, and have shared as much of it as I can with my kiddies.  My son, his friends and I stayed up all night during a meteor shower last year...amazing.  The boys were hilarious (and tried so hard to be quiet!). ;)  C.

aimer said...

Oh Cathy, I am so glad that you posted this entry. I haven't been paying attention and I didn't realize that al lunar eclipse was so imminent. I'm so excited and as always, you are full of such interesting details and explanations about the upcoming event. Thank you!--Sheria

adonnainparis said...

Thank you so much for letting me know about this!
Donna

gazker said...

Well, if it happened this week, we would see it all as our nights have been so clear..... This is the UK, which measn the chances are off seeing this is a million to one.
Gaz ;-) xxx

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