The Moon will pass through Earth’s shadow tomorrow, creating a beautiful eclipse. In fact, the Moon will remain fully immersed in the shadow for an hour and 43 minutes — longer than any other lunar eclipse of this century. The Moon will turn dark red or orange — color from sunlight filtering through Earth’s atmosphere. At least part of the eclipse will be visible from almost the entire planet. The only exception is North America.
Our consolation is that the Moon will be close to the planet Mars, which is shining brighter than it will for several years. It looks like a brilliant orange star, to the lower left of the Moon at nightfall.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through Earth’s long shadow. But not all eclipses are the same. The length of an eclipse varies depending on the Moon’s position within the shadow, and the Moon’s distance from Earth. For tomorrow’s eclipse, the Moon will pass through the heart of the shadow. And it will be near its farthest point from Earth, so it will move slowly, extending its time in the shadow.
The total eclipse begins at 2:30 p.m. Central Time, when the Moon completely enters Earth’s dark inner shadow. It ends when the Moon begins to exit the shadow, 103 minutes later. Although it won’t be visible from the United States, it’ll play out on several web sites, so we can at least get a second-hand view of this beautiful astronomical alignment.
More about the Moon and Mars tomorrow.