... and tomorrow there's a total eclipse of the moon, one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world. Last night, Lucius and I had an unresolvable debate about which is more beautiful, a solar or a lunar eclipse. A solar eclipse is awe-inspiring and exhilerating - celestial fireworks. A lunar eclipse is a gentler experience: the first time I saw one I was surprised that the moon was still visible at totality, I thought it would be impossible to see. Instead, it was the moon as I'd never seen it before: commanding, red, magnificent. I can't wait. Full contact starts at about 10.45 Saturday night, and carries on until just before midnight.
Here's some techie stuff from the BBC:
The almost-full Moon will rise in the E at 17:29 UT (same as GMT) on Saturday 3 March and will climb steeply to 25° high into the ESE by 20:18, when the Earth's shadow will just touch the leftmost edge of the Moon ("first contact"). You might have "has it? / hasn't it?" doubts for some time, as first contact can be difficult to spot because (a) this is the reasonably light "penumbral" shadow; and (b) the edge of the shadow is fuzzy, rather than sharp, so the transition is not very clear.
The area of the penumbra continues to grow until the Moon's face is totally in shadow. Then at 21:30, (second contact) the edge of the Moon will just touch the umbra. The penumbra/umbra transition will also be fuzzy, but it will soon become clear that the shadow is darkening, and at 22:44 the Moon's surface will be completely covered by the umbra. The Moon rarely disappears completely during totality, but it's difficult to forecast just how dark it will become. It will probably be somewhere between a light, glowing coppery red and a dark, brooding blood-red. Whatever happens though it should be spectacular and it's relatively easy to photograph.
The Moon will remain fully in the umbra until 23:57, will be fully in the penumbra at 01:11 UT on Sunday 4 March, and finally the eclipse will end at 02:24 with the Moon about 40° high in the SW.
And even more if you didn't quite get it (I don't really understand the science or mechanics, I just respond to the beauty and the romance).
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