Total Lunar Eclipse Coming May 15-16

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By Joe Rao
Special to SPACE.com
posted: 07:00 am ET
25 April 2003
http://www.space.com/spacewatch/lunar_e ... 30425.html

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On the night of May 15-16, millions of eyes will be drawn skyward, where there will hang a mottled, coppery globe -- our Moon -- completely immersed in the long, tapering cone of shadow cast into space by Earth.

If the weather is clear, skywatchers across most of the Americas, Europe and Africa will have a view of one of nature's most beautiful spectacles: A total eclipse of the Moon.

Unlike a total eclipse of the Sun, which often requires an avid viewer to make a long journey in order to stand under the path of totality, lunar eclipses can more frequently be observed from one's own backyard. The passage of the Moon through the Earth's shadow is similarly visible from all places within the hemisphere where the Moon is above the horizon.

The total phase of the upcoming event will be visible across much of North America, all of South America, as well as central and western Europe and most of Africa (except the extreme eastern part). This makes for a potential viewing audience of nearly 2 billion people.

For North Americans, this will be the first total lunar eclipse in more than three years.

There is nothing complicated about viewing this celestial spectacle. It is perfectly safe and simple to watch with the naked eye, but binoculars or a small telescope will give a much nicer view.

The eclipse will begin rather undramatically when the Moon enters the faint outer portion, or penumbra, of the Earth's shadow about an hour before it begins moving into the umbra. The penumbral portion of the event is all but invisible to the eye until the Moon becomes deeply immersed in it. Sharp-eyed viewers may get their first glimpse of the penumbra as a faint "smudge" on the left part of the Moon's disk at or around 1:46 GMT (on May 16) which corresponds to 9:46 p.m. EDT on May 15, or 7:46 p.m. MDT.

The event becomes more remarkable when Moon begins to enter the Earth’s dark inner shadow (the umbra). A small scallop of darkness will begin to appear on the Moon's left edge at 2:03 GMT (on May 16) corresponding to 10:03 p.m. EDT (on May 15) or 8:03 p.m. MDT.


The Moon will take 3 hours and 14 minutes to pass completely through the umbra, and just less than one-third of that time it will be entirely immersed in shadow.

While much of eastern and central U.S. and Canada will see the Moon enter the umbra, those living to the west of a line running from near roughly Tucson, Arizona to Minot, North Dakota, to Port Nelson, Manitoba, Canada will see the Moon rise already in eclipse.

The total phase of the eclipse will last 53 minutes beginning at 3:14 GMT on May 16, corresponding to 11:14 p.m. EDT on May 15, or 8:14 p.m. PDT.

During totality, although the Moon will be entirely immersed in the Earth’s shadow, it likely will not disappear from sight. Rather, it should appear to turn a coppery red color, a change caused by the Earth's atmosphere bending or refracting sunlight into the shadow. Since the Earth's shadow is cone-shaped and extends out into space for some 857,000 miles (1,379,000 kilometers), sunlight will be strained through a sort of "double sunset," all around the rim of the Earth, into its shadow and then onto the Moon.

What to Expect
Residents in the eastern U.S. and Canada will see the entire eclipse. Sequence of events


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Some people will see the eclipse in progress when the Moon comes up. Below are some selected cities, with time of local moonrise and the percentage of the Moon’s diameter already immersed in the Earth’s umbra.

Location Time Moonrise Eclipsed

Phoenix
MST
7:12 p.m.
13%
Salt Lake City
MDT
8:28 p.m.
35%
Las Vegas
PDT
7:31 p.m.
39%
Los Angeles
PDT
7:39 p.m.
51%
Helena
MDT
8:45 p.m.
59%
Boise
MDT
8:54 p.m.
72%
San Francisco
PDT
8:05 p.m.
87%




Local forecast

While much of eastern and central U.S. and Canada will see the Moon enter the umbra, those living to the west of a line running from near roughly Tucson, Arizona to Minot, North Dakota, to Port Nelson, Manitoba, Canada will see the Moon rise already in eclipse.

Because of low altitude and bright evening twilight, observers in these locations may not see much of the Moon at all until it begins to emerge from out of the Earth’s shadow.

Conversely, the Moon will be setting in total eclipse across portions of east-central Africa and central Europe. Because of low altitude and bright morning twilight, observers in these locations may not see much of the Moon at all after it slips completely into the Earth’s shadow.

At the moment of mid-totality (3:40 GMT/11:40 p.m. EDT), the Moon will stand directly overhead from easternmost Bolivia.

The Moon will pass entirely out of the Earth's umbra at 5:17 GMT, or 1:17 a.m. EDT, and the last evidence of the penumbra should vanish at or, around 5:34 GMT, or 1:34 a.m. EDT.

The last total lunar eclipse occurred on Jan. 9, 2001 and was visible primarily from the Eastern Hemisphere. The last widely observable lunar eclipse visible from the Americas occurred on Jan. 20-21, 2000.

Should unsettled weather eclipse your view of the upcoming eclipse, there is at least some consolation in knowing that there’ll be another total lunar eclipse visible from most of the Americas, Europe, Africa as well as much of Asia, later this year on the night of Nov. 8-9.
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Figures, I live on the west coast and by the time the moon comes up it will already be in the eclipse. Also I am sure it will probably be cloudy and rainy here like it normally is. We always miss the cool things.

I think it would be interesting to see a full eclipse of the sun, not sure I will ever be able to experience that though :(
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Here is how the moon will pass through the Earths' shadow. Looks like it barely was a full eclipse:

Image
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very cool! i'll certainly be watching, and will probably take some pics.
I've always been fascinated with space and the stars. So cool, thx!
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If you take some pictures, please post them :)
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i def will! you didn't even have to ask. ;)

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