Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Another Interesting Outer Space Event

Whether or not you missed the Perseids, you'll want to take a look upward for Aug 28th's total lunar eclipse, which will be visible from five continents, including all of North America. (Sorry, Europeans and Africans. Better luck next time!) I've seen a couple of lunar eclipses now, and they're really damned cool, what with the moon turning the color of blood and all. You can't get special effects better than that!

Totality occurs at 5:52 AM, Eastern Time and lasts for about 90 minutes, so you early risers on the East Coast will have something interesting to wake up to, although your show, unlike that of those of us farther west, will be interrupted by a pesky sunrise. That corresponds to 3:52, my time, which comes smack in the middle of my workday, but I think I'll make a point of taking a coffee break out on the balcony.

6 comments:

  1. give me a call on your way out to the balcony so I can see it too! (just kidding. i would NEVER answer the phone at 3:52am)

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  2. I might just have to call in sick for Wednesday...

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  3. All that means for me is waking up an hour early and watching it while eating my oatmeal.

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  4. You obnoxious day person, you. :)

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  5. Was it good for you, too? ;)

    I'll ask the question on behalf of all space novices (including myself). What's the difference between a lunar eclipse and the monthly darkening of the moon? I thought a new moon occurred because it was in the earth's shadow, just like an eclipse.

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  6. It was cloudy. Eventually, I gave up. :(

    Lunar eclipses do happen when the moon is in the shadow of the Earth. The regular cycles of the moon, however, have nothing to do with Earth's shadow; it's all about which side of the moon is illuminated by the sun. The moon shines by reflected sunlight, so only the half of the moon that's in daylight at any given moment is bright. During a full moon, the Earth is between the sun and moon -- not so precisely between that our shadow falls on it (usually), but between, nonetheless -- so that we see it illuminated full-on. (Imagine looking at a friend's face while someone else stands behind you with a flashlight, shining it on them.) During a new moon, conversely, the moon is between us and the sun, so that the side facing away from us is lit, but the side towards us is dark.

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