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Tonight, at 11:41 p.m., you can either be watching the Tonight Show (Larry King and actor Garrett Hedlund, guests), or you can crane your neck toward the stars to witness the majesty of a total lunar eclipse. From Ben Burress on Quest:
One of the most striking and beautiful examples of the Earth-Moon relationship takes place during a total lunar eclipse, when the Moon passes through the Earth's shadow, transforming in a couple of hours from the stark brilliance of the Full Moon to the dark ruby-hued wonder of "umbral occlusion"—or totality.
Monday evening, December 20th, starting at about 9:30 PM, the Moon will begin to enter the Earth's partial, or "penumbral," shadow. Around 10:30, it begins to enter the umbra (full shadow), and by 11:40 will be completely engulfed: "totality." Totality will last until 12:53 AM Tuesday morning, when the Moon begins to leave the umbra...
Though a total lunar eclipse is a rare event to see, this one is rarer still--not the least reason being that for the Western US it will be one of the highest lunar eclipses you can see, with the Moon reaching its apex for the night over 75 degrees from the horizon (practically overhead) close to mid-totality. For our latitudes in the Bay Area, the Moon can't get much higher than that. So, we get High Moon when the eclipse is at its best (weather permitting).
Astronomer Andrew Fraknoi of Foothill College has put out an information sheet on what you'll see and when, though keep in mind the weather could very well be a problem.
If you want to chance catching a glimpse, several events are taking place:
- Lawrence Hall of Science - "Come to the top of the hill for a stunning view of Planet Earth's shadow cast onto the Moon. Bring a friend and enjoy a Planetarium show, telescope viewing, and eclipse activities with astronomy experts and fellow sky-enthusiasts."
- Chabot Space & Science Center - view the event from the Chabot observatory. 9 p.m. - 2 a.m.
- SF Amateur Astronomers Night Sky Network - Merrie Way Parking Lot, Merrie Way at Point Lobos Avenue, San Francisco
On the other hand, why does the web exist if not to allow you to view a total lunar eclipse in the dead of winter from the comfort of your own home? Bookmark this page to watch a live video feed from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Two NASA scientists will also be online at that web location, answering user questions about the eclipse.
And, natch, there's an iPhone app called SkySafari Lite that might do the trick, too.