What to Know for Tonight's Lunar Eclipse/Winter Solstice

Here are a few tips for your once-in-372-years event
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2010 6:02 PM CST
What to Know for Tonight's Eclipse/Solstice
The Earth casts a shadow over the moon in a partial lunar eclipse that was observed Saturday, June 26, 2010 in Manila, Philippines.   (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

It's getting close to showtime, kids: The longest night of the year has begun (at least here on the East Coast), so bring on the first total lunar eclipse to coincide with the winter solstice since 1638 (NASA has apparently engaged in a bit of history-revision). Here's what you need to know, per Space.com and the AP:

  • Take a nap or brew some coffee: The eclipse kicks off at 12:30am ET, and will last about 3 1/2 hours. The total eclipse will go down about 2:41am ET, and last about an hour.
  • The longest night is also the darkest: Not only is the sun below the horizon the longest, but the eclipse further blocks light from the sky.
  • Once in an orange moon: That orb in the sky might well glow orange or even blood red, depending on how much particulate matter's in the atmosphere.

  • What's happening up there: The Earth is passing directly between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun's rays from reflecting off the moon.
  • You can see it: The eclipse will be visible and you can watch it without eye protection.
  • Look high in the sky: One of the benefits of the eclipse falling on winter solstice, when the sun is lowest in the sky.
  • Also look for: Shooting stars. The Ursid meteor shower is out there tonight, and it'll be more visible without moonlight.
  • Next up: There will be eclipses in June and December of 2011. But they won't be nearly as cool or visible.
(More lunar eclipse stories.)

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