Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lengthy Total Lunar Eclipse on Wednesday, Not Visible in U.S.


                              

Astronomy fans are readying themselves for 2011's first total lunar eclipse, set to take place on Wednesday, June 15. Unfortunately for those in the U.S., however, it won't be visible from North America.
During a lunar eclipse, Earth comes between the sun and the moon so that all or part of the sun's light is blocked from the moon, according to NASA.
Four partial solar and two total lunar eclipses are set to take place in 2011, which NASA said is "rather rare"; it will only happen six times in the 21st century—2011, 2029, 2047, 2065, 2076, and 2094. Wednesday is the first total lunar eclipse of the year, however. Another one will occur on December 10.
Wednesday's eclipse is also notable for how long it will last. "The total phase itself lasts 100 minutes. The last eclipse to exceed this duration was in July 2000," astrophysicist Fred Espenak wrote in NASA's eclipse guide for 2011.
Where will you need to be to view the eclipse? The entire event will be visible from the eastern half of Africa, the Middle East, central Asia, and western Australia, Espenak said. Europe will miss the first part of the eclipse because it happens before moonrise, but—with the exception of northern Scotland and northern Scandinavia—Europeans will be able to see totality. Eastern Asia, eastern Australia, and New Zealand, meanwhile, will miss the last stages of eclipse because they occur after moonset.
In South America, observers in eastern Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina will witness totality, but nothing will be viewable from North America. Those in the U.S. should be able to see the December eclipse, however.
Espenak said he watched another total eclipse 30 years ago, on July 6, 1982. "I was amazed at how brilliantly the summer Milky Way glowed since it was all but invisible during the partial phases. Observers will have a similar opportunity during June's eclipse," he said.

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