Lunar Eclipse

StarDate: June 25, 2010

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Earth will take a "bite" out of the full Moon tomorrow. And much of the biting process will be visible across much of North America.

That "bite" is Earth's long shadow falling across the Moon -- a lunar eclipse. The part in the shadow will turn dark -- as though a chunk were missing from the Moon.

On average, there are two or three lunar eclipses each year. They occur when the alignment of the Sun, Earth, and full Moon is just right, so the Moon passes through the shadow. If the shadow completely engulfs the Moon, then it's a total eclipse -- and there'll be one of those in December, with those of us in the United States in perfect position to see it. But if the shadow only gets part of the lunar disk, then it's a partial eclipse.

And that's what happens tomorrow. The entire eclipse is visible across the Pacific Basin, including Hawaii. And parts of it are visible from the rest of the U.S. except for the Northeast.

The best part of the eclipse begins when the Moon first touches the dark inner part of the shadow around 5:16 a.m. Central Time. The eclipse reaches its peak about 80 minutes later, and ends when the Moon exits the shadow at 8 a.m.

The early stages of the eclipse will be visible across most of the U.S. As the eclipse goes on, though, the Moon will set across the central and western regions of the country. Even so, most of the country will get to see at least some of the eclipse, as Earth just nips our satellite world.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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