Our Window on Nature

. . . exploring the world around us

Red Moon Rising

Filed under: Sky — Lowell Christie -- February 28, 2007 @ 7:38 pm

MoonThis weekend (March 3rd) there will be an eclipse of the moon — at least for those on the East Coast. The total eclipse will last for over an hour. A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, earth, and moon line up with the earth blocking the sun’s rays from striking the moon.

Unlike a solar eclipse, you need take no special precautions to watch the moon partially disappear on Saturday night. Even a total eclipse is only a partial disappearance because some of the sun’s light will be refracted (bent) by the earth’s atmosphere.

Depending upon the amount of cloud cover and dust in the atmosphere, the moon should take on a reddish or coppery cast during the eclipse. According to the Sky Tonight website

Only in New England, Québec, and the Maritime Provinces does the sky become fully dark before the end of totality. Farther west, the eclipse is nearing its end when the Moon rises …

If you live west of the Rockies, you’ll miss this show.

But all is not lost. This year will have several total eclipses of the moon, and on August 28th those of us in the West will see the display while those in the East miss out.

Since the eclipse will already be in progress as the moon rises, take a few minutes Friday evening to mark the location on the horizon near your home. That way on Saturday evening you’ll be able to view the event without missing the opening act.

The moon image was taken from the Distant Suns computer program. Distant Suns has both a free and a commercial software program that will display the night sky right on your computer. It’s what I use to help me explore the heavens. Check out their website at http://www.distantsuns.com/.

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