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Monday, December 20, 2010

Total Lunar Eclipse and Winter Solstice

There is to be a total lunar eclipse tonight, nearly at the same time as the Winter Solstice.  It has been 372 years since these occurred on the same day.  The Winter Solstice is the moment at which the North Pole is tilted the farthest away from the sun.  This is the shortest day of the year and the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
These two events are unrelated, but they do not usually happen on the same day.
You can see the eclipse if you don't mind staying up awhile!
I'm telling my kids that if they want to stay up, then they have to look up some information first and tell me a few things they've learned, hee hee!
The moon starts into the earth's shadow at 1:33am EST and will be totally eclipsed from 2:41 to 3:53 EST.   This is when the moon will be red. 
You lucky people in the Pacific Time Zone!  Your clocks will be three hours earlier than mine!
I hope I can stay up!  Maybe I need a nap.  Zzzzz....
Thanks to Apologia posting this on Facebook.

Total Lunar Eclipse on Aug. 28, 2007, seen from Kapiolani Park in Honolulu, Hawaii. Shot thru a telescope, about every 5 minutes.

Why does the moon turn red?  Simply put, it's for the same reason that sunsets are red.
White light is made of red, green, and blue. Our atmosphere filters out the shorter-wavelength light (blues, greens), so right on the edge of the earth's silhouette, the light from the sun that is hitting the moon is red.
If you were on the moon during a lunar eclipse, you would see a red ring around the silhouette of the earth.
The moon has no light of it's own and reflects whatever kind of light from the sun hits it.

--Last year in Physical Science, we did a very simple experiment (sheet of paper, red marker) that shows how the light spectrum works this way.  (Scroll down -- it would be the last one, of course!)

►At, watch a video and/or read why "there won’t be a total lunar eclipse this far north on the sky’s dome until December 21, 2485."
Scroll down for specific times for different time zones. 
►More information on Lunar Eclipses, including a list of future eclipses, and from what region of the earth they can be seen.  Scroll down.
♦Learn more about light and why you see a rainbow the way you do. 

UPDATE: Here is the eclipse from yesterday.

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse from William Castleman on Vimeo.

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