Friday, February 22, 2008

Amazing Feb 20 lunar eclipse - see our photo gallery of totality!

[updated 2/21/2008] -- The Moon roared into the constallation Leo in a fiery orange lunar eclipse Feb 20.

We've posted this latest images from penumbra to totality in a gallery of more from this celestial event every few minutes, from the onset of the first penumbral shadows at 7:36 pm ET to totality, just after 10 pm ET.

Ongoing coverage

GALLERY: Images of the eclipse as-it-happened

See images and time-lapses from different regions throughout the night AND watch archived video of our webcast of last year's lunar eclipse, featuring segments on eclipse science, mythology, and our future on the Moon.

Favourable weather

Wednesday night's total lunar eclipse not only happened at a decent hour of the early-to-mid evening for us viewers across North America (unlike other passes in recent years), it also included a close encounter with the planet Saturn.

No, the Moon wasn't set to collide with the great ringed world (Saturn is about a billion km from Earth and our Moon), but Saturn did appear near our neighbour in space, as it turned an eerie orange in the Earth's shadow.

VIDEO: Watch the archive of our LIVE webcast of the March 3, 2007 lunar eclipse

Add a favourable weather forecast (though some cities will have been clouded over, few cities in mid and eastern North America were expecting solid cloud on the night of Feb 20.

Eclipse 101

This colour is the result of the last remnants of sunlight still able to refract around the Earth to the Moon. However, much more red light than blue makes it past the blocking Earth to hit the lunar surface.

An eclipse all night on the East Coast

From the vantage point of much of Eastern North America, viewers could see the eclipse from just after diner - when the Earth's shadow started to creep across the face of the full Moon at 8:43 pm ET - to just after midnight.

Unlike last summer's early morning lunar eclipse on August 28 (pictured at left), viewers in Eastern North America won't have to chase the Moon down into the horizon to catch a last glimpse of the dwindling event.

For Easterners - and in-fact almost all of North America - the February 20 Moon got and remained fully eclipsed for a generous 51 minutes.

Viewing guide (archive version)

  • The February 20 eclipse appears in the east.
  • Depending on your location, the Moon will be in various stages of rising, though the actual eclipse happens simultaneously
  • You'll start to see the lighter part of the Earth's shadow (penumbra) creep across the Moon at 7:36, totally covering the Moon by 8:43 pm ET
  • The much darker umbral shadow of the Earth will start to turn the Moon orange or even red starting around 9 pm ET and reach total eclipse at 10:01 pm ET
  • The Moon will stay bathed in this eerie dim glow until 10:50, when our local natural satellite will begin to emerge from the umbra, then the penumbra

    The Saturn encounter

    Throughout the night, viewers could see the Moon flanked by two bright points of light: One of which is the 1.4 magnitude star Regulus, while the other is Saturn - a yellow 0.2 magnitude gem 3.5 degrees above and to the left of the Moon as viewed from North America. Regulus, Saturn, and the Moon will more-or-less formed a triangle in the sky during the eclipse.

    Those with a keen eye may have noticed the Moon moving across this 'background' star and planet much farther away.

    See you in 2010!

    If you weren't able to catch this celestial rush hour event, the next easily-visible total lunar eclipse won't happen over North America again for almost three years - in December of 2010.
  • Original here

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