Final total lunar eclipse until 2014

The final total lunar eclipse for the next three years is set to take place this Saturday morning. It apparently will be pretty awesome for those on the west coast of the U.S., showing off some purdy deep reds, but I’m sure it won’t be disappointing on the east coast either.

It is scheduled to start at 1:45am EST and continue for a couple of hours. By 3:05am, the moon should be completely engulfed by Earth’s shadow.

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Total lunar eclipse Monday night

Here are the times:

There is nothing complicated about viewing this celestial spectacle. Unlike an eclipse of the sun, which necessitates special viewing precautions in order to avoid eye damage, an eclipse of the moon is perfectly safe to watch. All you’ll need to watch are your eyes, but binoculars or a telescope will give a much nicer view.

The eclipse will actually begin when the moon enters the faint outer portion, or penumbra, of the Earth’s shadow a little over an hour before it begins moving into the umbra. The penumbra, however, is all but invisible to the eye until the moon becomes deeply immersed in it. Sharp-eyed viewers may get their first glimpse of the penumbra as a faint smudge on the left part of the moon’s disk at or around 6:15 UT (on Dec. 21) which corresponds to 1:15 a.m. Eastern Time or 10:15 p.m. Pacific Time (on Dec. 20).

The most noticeable part of this eclipse will come when the moon begins to enter the Earth’s dark inner shadow (called the umbra). A small scallop of darkness will begin to appear on the moon’s left edge at 6:33 UT (on Dec. 21) corresponding to 1:33 a.m. EST or 10:33 p.m. PST (on Dec. 20).

The moon is expected to take 3 hours and 28 minutes to pass completely through the umbra.

The total phase of the eclipse will last 72 minutes beginning at 7:41 UT (on Dec. 21), corresponding to 2:41 a.m. EST or 11:41 p.m. PST (on Dec. 20).

At the moment of mid-totality (8:17 UT/3:17 a.m. EST/12:17 a.m. PST), the moon will stand directly overhead from a point in the North Pacific Ocean about 800 miles (1,300 km) west of La Paz, Mexico.

The moon will pass entirely out of the Earth’s umbra at 10:01 UT/5:01 a.m. EST/2:01 a.m. PST and the last evidence of the penumbra should vanish about 15 or 20 minutes later.

Like a big pizza pie

Apologies for the lame post title.

I was walking down my semi-rural road this evening and noticed that I could see most of the way down it. The reason was that the moon was lighting my way rather efficiently. Using that as inspiration – and because the beginning of another semester brings a lot of work my way, thus making my posting skimpier – here is an image of a full lunar eclipse from February 20, 2008.

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The next eclipse is scheduled for December 21, 2010.