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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Total Lunar Eclipse!

I'm really, really looking forward to the total eclipse tonight. I'm hoping the skies are nice and clear, though the forecast has me a bit worried. Ah well...

If it's been a while since you've studied astronomy, here's a primer. The moon doesn't actually shine; it reflects sunlight. Sometimes, the Earth will pass between the full moon and the sun. With the Earth between them, the sunlight is blocked; the moon is in the Earth's shadow. As the shadow moves over the moon, it takes a bite out. Once the moon is fully inside the Earth's shadow, the whole moon becomes visible again and the color changes. (That's all because of our atmosphere, by the way.) In the prettiest eclipses, the moon will turn a gorgeous blood red. As the moon moves out of the shadow, the whole process reverses. You can get more in-depth info at Mr. Eclipse, the NASA site for tonight's eclipse that I linked to above, or do a search on "Lunar Eclipse."

If you've never seen it, make plans right now to see at least part of tonight's eclipse! NASA has a Javascript app that will give you all the info you need.

And speaking of the eclipse, did you know that our moon and the Earth are in a perfect relationship, both in size and in relative positions, to have lunar eclipses as well as total solar eclipses? It's true. God's cool like that.

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