Friday, June 25, 2010

The Astronomers Saga: Eclipse

Did you know? There is a partial lunar eclipse that will happen early Saturday (June 26th) that should be especially neat to those of us who live in North America. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the Earth's shadow. This particular eclipse will create an optical illusion, or "moon illusion," that will make the moon look larger than normal. 53.7% of the moon's diameter will be covered at the peak of the eclipse, leaving lit almost half of the moon's disk on the shadow's outer fringe (penumbra).

The event will start at 6:17 a.m. EDT (1017 GMT) Saturday morning, the greatest eclipse occurring at around 7:38 a.m. EDT (1138 GMT). The entire show should last about 80 minutes, so if you want to go back to bed I suggest setting your alarm for the peak of the partial eclipse. If you live in the central or western part of the U.S. then look low and to the west just before dawn, the moon will be close to the horizon (peak should be ~4:35 a.m. PDT for you guys). If you live in the eastern U.S. the partial eclipse will begin after the moon has set so you may only get to see part of it. However, if you live in the northeastern U.S. and Canada, sorry no eclipse for you. If you are in India, Japan or parts of East Asia then you will be able to see the partial eclipse, "moon illusion" included, on Saturday evening as the moon rises.

Note that no special viewing equipment is needed for viewing a lunar eclipse, but if you have a telescope, and don't mind dragging it out at 4 in the morning, you'll notice some great coloration (see first link for details). Also, the International Space Station will be visible moving from west to southeast around 4:34 a.m. PDT (altitude 25 degrees SW).

The next lunar eclipse will happen on the morning of December 21, and it'll be a full one.

For more on times, details, etc look here:
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