Update Saturday Dec 10: The total lunar eclipse has come and gone. I opened my eyes around 6 a.m., briefly entertained the notion of getting up to watch it, then gently performed a self-query as to just who I thought I was kidding.

Luckily, there’s the web…

Photos and video:

Yesterday’s post
If you plan on getting up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to watch the total lunar eclipse tomorrow, knock yourself out — you’re a hardier soul than I. Here’s a cool NASA video explaining the whole thing:

And here’s Mina Kim’s interview with Andrew Fraknoi, chair of the astronomy department at Foothill college, with all the info you’ll need:

There’s good news and bad news. There will be a beautiful lunar eclipse, weather permitting, tomorrow morning.

The bad news is the time to see it is between 6 and 7 a.m., but if you are up it will be an easy eclipse to see if you have a view toward the western horizon.

And that’s’ really the other bad news: The moon is setting as the eclipse is happening, so you have to be able to see low on the western horizon, and most people have something in the way, like a tall building.

So you have to pre-plan your viewing position to see low in the west.

During a lunar eclipse, earth’s shadow falls on the full moon. If you get up before 6, you’ll see the full moon slowly getting darker and darker, the round shadow of the earth falling on larger and larger parts of the moon. Between 6 and 7, the moon will be completely dark, except for whatever light is bent through the earth’s atmosphere. And often that turns the moon a kind of reddish brown color, very dramatic.

The added attraction this time: Because the moon will be low on the horizon, it looks larger. When the moon is near the horizon, we have more things to compare it to, so the moon looks bigger to our eye. So you’ll see quite a large dark reddish brown object there.

Some advice:

  • You don’t need a telescope or binoculars; it’s easily seen with the naked eye
  • There’s nothing to worry about. You only need protective glasses for solar eclipses. The moon is perfectly safe to look at
  • If you are going to get up, make sure that wherever you go you can see the western horizon, or you’ll be looking or the moon and you won’t be able to find it.

If you really want to go to town on this, get yourself over to Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland:

Get up early and come to Chabot to catch the last Total Lunar Eclipse until the year 2014! Our Observatory Deck will be open for anyone who would like to enjoy the spectacle in good company. Chabot staff and volunteers will be on hand to talk about the eclipse as it happens. A total lunar eclipse is a rare meeting of the full Moon and the long shadow the Earth casts into space. The Moon will begin to enter the Earth’s full shadow (umbra) starting at 4:46am, and will be totally engulfed by 6:06am. Totality will last 41 minutes, followed shortly after by moonset.

The event is free.
Tickets and info here.

Some related links:

Finally, here’s video of last December’s lunar eclipse, as seen from Mountain View.

Maybe I will get up after all…

Photos, Video of Saturday’s Lunar Eclipse 10 December,2011Jon Brooks

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