Lunar Eclipse Montage
December 20, 2010
The montage above showcases the lunar eclipse of March 3, 2007 as photographed from Portugal. Tonight after midnight, there will be a total lunar eclipse visible in both North and South America. Only the incipient phases of this eclipse can be observed from northern Europe, just before sunrise. Only the end phase can be viewed in Japan and northeastern Asia, rising at sunset. Whereas there are at least two solar eclipses every year (partial, annular or total), lunar eclipses (total and partial) occur more in clumps; as many as three in a given year or maybe none for several years in succession. Tonight's total lunar eclipse will be the first in nearly three years. On occasion, the lunar disk takes on a coppery or ruddy hue during totality, as shown at center here. Depending on the clarity of the atmosphere, however, the Moon may be all but invisible when swallowed by the Earth's shadow (umbra).
Since the full Moon is visible to everyone on the side of the Earth that faces it (providing skies are clear), lunar eclipses can be potentially observed by hundreds of millions of people. While it's true that they don't provide the same kind of rush attendant with a total solar eclipse, they're nevertheless impressive in their own right. So rouse yourself tonight from your solstice slumber and take a peek.
Photo details: Sequence of images taken with a HP 4MP digital compact camera and coupled on a Meade ETX90 telescope.