Thursday, March 01, 2007

Lunar Eclipse a' comin!

This Saturday, March 3rd, you will be able to see a total lunar eclipse. These aren’t particularly rare (the next one is in August), but they are interesting to see. Unlike a solar eclipse you won’t see one celestial body completely cover or “eclipse” another. The moon will pass through Earth’s shadow, causing it to change to a reddish brown color in the Eastern Time Zone. Unfortunately, it will be at moonrise, so it won’t be amazingly dark, and given that we live in the mid-west, clear skies are also rare.

However, if the skies are clear and you are so inclined, the moon will begin to move into the outer shadow (the penumbra) of the earth starting at 4:30. It will enter totality or the darkest part of the shadow (called the umbra) at 5:44 and float through it for about an hour and 15 mins. At 6:20, the moon will be at mid-umbra which is the time the moon will look the darkest, reddist, browniest of the eclipse. From 6:20-8:12 the moon will start moving out of the Earth’s shadow until it looks all nice and regular at the end.

Here is an amazingly bad video explanation of the eclipse. Note how the astronomer never looks up from the cue cards she is reading and the full shot of her with a red lighting her head and none of her body. I've said it before and I'll say it again: NASA cannot make space videos look good no matter how hard they try.

It’s great example of how the laws that govern things gravity causing my coffee mug to roll off my desk and splash me this morning are the same laws that cause the earth, sun, and moon to move through the cosmos. It's also a great example of shoddy government-sponsored video explanations.


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