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Full Lunar Eclipse Tonight

It doesn’t happen very often, but if you look up into the southern sky tonight, you’ll observe a full lunar eclipse.

eclipse

Photo: Courtesy: Flickr, David Boocock

Total lunar eclipse taken in October 2007 from just outside the UK.

It’s the first time in several years there’s been a total full lunar eclipse that’s visible in North America. Indiana University PhD student Michael Young says lunar eclipses actually happen fairly frequently, but you can’t see them in their entirety. Young says tonight you’ll get to see the whole thing if you are willing to stay up.

“The eclipse starts at 1:30 am,” said Young.  “It’s not total until about 2:40 and that goes until about 4 am. Where the moon is fully eclipsed and then after that it starts to leave the total shadow.”

Normally the sun lights up the moon, but during a lunar eclipse, the moon moves through the Earth’s shadow and it blocks the sun’s rays.  Young says a lunar eclipse is much slower than a solar eclipse because it takes the moon a long time to move through the Earth’s large shadow.

“So when it first starts to enter the Earth’s shadow it almost looks like a bite has been taken out fo the moon….and that just gets slowly and slowly bigger and it actually starts to look red. And that’s due to the sunlight scattering through the earth’s atmosphere and that actually reaches the moon. It’s like when you look at a sunset. When the sun is low on the horizon it looks red that same red light is what is reaching the moon and that is why it will look red,”said Young.

The next lunar eclipse will occur in about three years, but you’ll have to go to Europe or Africa to see it.

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