Rare Total Lunar Eclipse on Winter Solstice

The moon is seen during a total lunar eclipse from New York, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. 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 red hue. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

From an historical view, the total eclipse of the moon in the wee hours of the morning today was quite the celestial event.

This was the first time a total lunar eclipse occurred on the winter solstice since 1638. (source)

Because the eclipse coincided with winter solstice, the moon appeared high in the sky; and with recent volcanic eruptions around the globe dumping tons of dust into the atmosphere, the moon glowed an eerie red instead of the usual orange-yellow tinge.

This image shows the path of the Moon through Earth’s umbral and penumbral shadows during the Total Lunar Eclipse of December 21, 2010.

Image Credit:
Mr. Eclipse/Fred Espenak

In southwestern Wisconsin the night sky was completely cloud covered so we missed our chance this time around.

According to NASA, although the next one will occur next June, we won’t get another opportunity in the continental U.S. to see a total lunar eclipse until April 15, 2014.

The next time a total eclipse of the moon will happen on the winter solstice will be on Dec. 21, 2094, according to U.S. Naval Observatory spokesman Geoff Chester.

Since the weather didn’t cooperate for us, (I would have let my homeschool kids stay up late for this and count it as science class!) we’ll be checking some of the following links instead.

Related Articles/Links:

The various stages, fully described.

There’s a short clip here from BBC News.

The total lunar eclipse in pictures

NASA’s Eclipse Page

A photo provided by NASA shows the total lunar eclipse as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on the arrival of the winter solstice, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010 in Arlington, VA. From beginning to end, the eclipse will last about three hours and twenty-eight minutes. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls / AP

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.

~Psalm 19

And finally, the definitive time-lapse of the 2010 Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse as seen in the skies above Gainesville, Florida.

December 21, 2010 from 1:10 AM EST (6:10 GMT) to 5:03 AM EST (10:03 GMT) from Gainesville Florida. Music is Claude Debussy Nocturnes: Sirènes.


Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse from William Castleman on Vimeo.


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