Missed the Meteors
I did glance at the sky last night to see if by chance I could spot a meteor from the Geminid Meteor Shower. In the four seconds I spent outside gazing before retiring for the evening I didn’t see any. The temperature was 23 degrees below zero at 10PM and I knew it wouldn’t be getting warmer so I decided I would just close my eyes in a warm bed and dream about meteors.
I do hope I will be a little braver for the lunar eclipse and I also hope it will be a little bit warmer.
Moon’s holiday treat
The December holiday sky show doesn’t end with the Geminid meteor shower. On the nights of Dec. 20 and Dec. 21, parts of four continents will be treated to a total eclipse of the moon — the only one to occur in 2010.
This NASA lunar eclipse chart shows the visibility of the eclipse from different regions around the world.
The last total lunar eclipse occurred on Feb. 20, 2008. While there are two total lunar eclipses in 2011, North American skywatchers will have to wait until April 2014 for one as potentially spectacular as the eclipse occurring this month. [Amazing Total Lunar Eclipse Photos]
Lunar eclipses occur when the moon passes through a point in its orbit in which the Earth is directly between it and the sun. When the moon enters the shadow of Earth, it creates a lunar eclipse. Unlike a solar eclipse, no precautions to protect the eyes are needed.
A total lunar eclipse is when the entire moon is completely inside the Earth’s shadow. Since the sun’s rays are bent by Earth’s atmosphere so that some still reach the moon, the moon is still visible in an eclipse.
Lunar eclipse skywatching tips
For the Western Hemisphere, the eclipse will "officially" begin on Dec. 21 at 12:29 a.m. EST (9:29 p.m. PST on Dec. 20) as the moon begins to enter Earth’s outer, or penumbral, shadow.
As for the Geminid meteor shower, don’t forget to dress warm. But you won’t be outside all night moongazing. This total lunar eclipse lasts only 72 minutes from start to finish.
But even in clear weather, skywatchers will not notice any changes in the moon’s appearance until about 45 minutes into the event, when a slight "smudge," or shading, begins to become evident on the upper left portion of the moon’s disk.
The entire total lunar eclipse will be visible from all of North and South America, the northern and western parts of Europe, and a small part of northeast Asia, including Korea and much of Japan.
Totality will also be visible in its entirety from the North Island of New Zealand and Hawaii. In all, an estimated 1.5 billion people will have an opportunity to enjoy the best part of this lunar show.
In other parts of the world, only the partial stages of the eclipse will be visible or the eclipse will occur when it’s daytime and the moon is not above their local horizon.
Portions of western Africa and central Europe can catch the opening stages of the eclipse before the moon sets below the horizon during the morning hours of Dec. 21, while the eastern third of Asia and central and eastern Australia can catch the closing stages just after moonrise on the evening of Dec. 21.