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Lunar Eclipse

December 9, 2011

Earth, Sun, and Moon experience a special “syzygy” early tomorrow. They align in such a way to produce a total lunar eclipse, and portions of it will be visible across much of the United States.

“Syzygy” comes from a Greek word that means to join together. It’s been used in astronomy since the 1600s, when it was first applied to an alignment of Earth, the Sun, and a third object, such as the Moon or a planet. It describes the Earth-Sun-Moon configuration at new or full Moon, when the three bodies form a line.

The Moon will be full early tomorrow, and the alignment is such that the Moon will pass through Earth’s long shadow, creating an eclipse. Asia, Australia, and the western Pacific will see the entire eclipse. Some of the United States will see a partial eclipse, with the whole eclipse visible from Alaska and Hawaii.

The best part of the eclipse begins when the Moon first touches the dark inner portion of Earth’s shadow at 6:46 a.m. Central Time. The shadow will take a bigger “bite” out of the lunar disk as the eclipse goes on, eventually covering the whole thing. This phase, known as totality, begins at 8:06 and will last a bit less than an hour. After that, the Moon will slowly move out of the shadow, with the last contact at 10:18.

That’s after the Moon sets for most of the country, so most of us will see only part of the eclipse. Those in the west will see more of it than those in the east.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2011


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