Europe Gets An Eclipse

This New Years Eve, Thursday 31st December 2009, most of Europe will experience a partial eclipse of the Moon. Beginning at 17:17:08 UT, the Moon will enter the Penumbral shadow of the Earth and very subtly start to darken. At 18:52:43 UT the Moon will begin to enter the Umbral shadow of the Earth, the point at which the Moon will glow in the classic orange and red colors. Since this is a partial eclipse, the Moon will not completely enter the Umbral shadow. The greatest depth of shadow will occur at 19:22:39 UT.

Graphic depicting the shadow of the Earth

So, doesn't it glow all orange, and stuff?
Yes, it does! One of the most fascinating aspects of a lunar eclipse is the deep orange and red colors that are seen as it enters deeper and deeper into the shadow. The colors are actually caused by the ring of permanent sunrises and sunsets that constantly encircle the Earth, as it is always sunrise or sunset somewhere. The Moon is far enough away to be able to see this ring as a bright orange and red circle once it is inside the full umbral shadow, bright enough in fact to illuminate the surface of the Moon. Imagine for a moment actually standing on the surface of the Moon when this happens, looking up to see planet Earth as a ring of fire in the sky, and looking down to see the once bright white surface flooded with deep reds and oranges. With the discovery of water on the Moon, and the subsequent increase in interest that event caused, it won't be long until we are back there on a permanent basis. The day when we witness such a spectacular event in person may not be that far away.

The Blood Red Moon during the August 16th 2008 eclipse

As can be seen in the image above, sunlight is refracted through the edge of the Earth's atmosphere giving rise to a spectacular lunar light show. If you are in Europe, and happen to be graced with clear skies, it is a sight well worth catching. Even though it is a partial eclipse, there will still be a long period of deep orange colors, making it possible to view even in partially cloudy conditions.

Happy Mooning, Spacers!

Images credit: Sagredo, Tomruen
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Winfred said...

wow..that is a great news..so Europe begins the new year with an eclipse.amazing..

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SpaceHead said...

Yes, what an end to the decade!

Sadly we won't get to see it here in the US. Please, let us know how it looked.