Lunar Eclipse Tonight

Tonight the Earth, Sun and Moon will all come into a common line and the moon will pass through the Earth’s shadow, an event known as a lunar eclipse, according to M. Sean O’Brien, associate research scientist in Yale’s Department of Astronomy.

Lunar eclipses always occur during the phase of the full moon. Unlike solar eclipses, he said, they are safe to look at directly with the naked eye and are visible from the entire night-time half of the earth.

O’Brien, who teaches the observational astronomy course, said the eclipse will officially begin at 9:05 p.m. EDT when the Moon enters the less-dark part of the Earth’s shadow known as the penumbra. During these early stages, the Moon still receives some direct sunlight, however, and most people won’t even notice the slight dimming of the face of the Moon.

At 10:03 p.m. the Moon will begin to enter the darker part of the Earth’s shadow known as the umbra. This is the beginning of the partial eclipse. Total lunar eclipse, when the Moon is entirely within the umbra and receives no direct light from the Sun, will last from 11:14 p.m. to 12:06 a.m. Partial eclipse will end at 1:17 a.m and the eclipse is complete when the Moon finally leaves the penumbra at 2:15 a.m.

“Even during the 52 minutes of total eclipse,” O’Brien said, “the Moon doesn’t disappear completely. It usually continues to shine in spectacular rich shades of orange, red, or brown - the combined light of all the sunsets ringing the Earth, sunlight bent by the Earth’s atmosphere and sent on to illuminate the Moon in one of the most hauntingly beautiful of astronomical phenomena.”

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