Moonwatchers treated to total lunar eclipse

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press
Hanging high in the sky, the moon slowly turned from bright silver into a red disk early Tuesday.

The Associated Press
The moon appears totally covered by shadow as Earth passes between the moon and the sun during a lunar eclipse on Jan. 9, 2001. On Tuesday, the first day of northern winter, the full moon passes almost dead-center through Earth's shadow. The eclipse begins at 1:33 a.m. EST. At that time, Earth's shadow will appear as a dark-red bite at the edge of the lunar disk. It takes about an hour for the "bite" to expand and swallow the entire Moon. Totality commences at 2:41 a.m. EST and lasts for 72 minutes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) -- Skywatchers got an early holiday present this year: A total eclipse of the moon.

Hanging high in the sky, the moon slowly turned from bright silver into a red disk early Tuesday.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth casts its shadow on the full moon, blocking the sun's rays that otherwise reflect off the moon's surface. Some indirect sunlight still pierces through to give the moon its eerie hue.

The 3 1/2 hour celestial spectacle was visible from North and Central America where skies were clear. Portions of Europe and Asia only caught part of the show.

The totality phase -- when the moon was completely immersed in Earth's shadow -- lasted 72 minutes.

Since the year's only total lunar eclipse coincided with winter solstice, the moon glowed high in the sky.

The last time this occurred was more than three centuries ago on Dec. 21, 1638. It will happen again on Dec. 21, 2094, according to U.S. Naval Observatory spokesman Geoff Chester.

Lunar eclipses are safe to watch with the naked eye, unlike solar eclipses.

The next total lunar eclipse will occur in June 2011 and will not be visible from North America.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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