On Wednesday, February 20, 2008, beginning at 7:01 p.m. PST, the moon will move completely under the shadow of the Earth in a total lunar eclipse. The eclipse can be seen in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Hope for good weather because the next total lunar eclipse won't happen until December 2010. The moon will be completely under Earth's shadow for about 50 minutes. During this time, the moon won't be completely obscured because of indirect light coming from the Earth's atmosphere. But the moon will appear to change colors from light gray to orange or deep red. The shade depends on the amount of dust and clouds in the Earth's atmosphere. Caption and Graphic Credit: NASA TV – Sequence Image Credit: F. Espenak
A Leap Year Red Moon Lunar Eclipse Tonight
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This year, leap year 2008, is North America's best chance at seeing the effects of the Earth passing between the Moon and the Sun until late 2010.
If the weather is really good and the sky is clear, depending upon where one is standing in North America, Europe, and Northern Africa on this Oblate Spheroid, one will see the color of the moon change from white/grey to a shade of red, and back again.
Image Credit: NASA
Along with the color change, the Red Moon comes with a fable that involves Christopher Columbus who knew that the shape of the Earth was not flat ... but he needed help to survive the ordeal of this first trip in the discovery of the new world.
West Coast residents may miss out on the early stages of the eclipse as it will occur before moonrise, but the rest of the country should be able to see the entire event--weather permitting, of course. Image Credit: F. Espenak
This excerpted from AFP via Yahoo! News -
Get ready for the eclipse that saved Columbus
AFP (Paris) - Mon Feb 18, 2:55 PM ET
The Moon will turn an eerie shade of red for people in the western hemisphere late Wednesday and early Thursday, recreating the eclipse that saved Christopher Columbus more than five centuries ago.
Lunar eclipses have long been associated with superstitions and signs of ill omen, especially in battle.
And an eclipse is credited with saving the life of Christopher Columbus and his crew in 1504.
Stranded on the coast of Jamaica, the explorers were running out of food and faced with increasingly hostile local inhabitants who were refusing to provide them with any more supplies.
Columbus, looking at an astronomical almanac compiled by a German mathematician, realized that a total eclipse of the Moon would occur on February 29, 1504.
He called the native leaders and warned them if they did not cooperate, he would make the Moon disappear from the sky the following night.
The warning, of course, came true, prompting the terrified people to beg Columbus to restore the Moon -- which he did, in return for as much food as his men needed. He and the crew were rescued on June 29, 1504.
The Moon will be in total eclipse from 0301 GMT to 0351 GMT. This will be visible east of the Rocky Mountains in North America, as well as in all of Central and South America, West Africa and Western Europe. The zenith of totality is close to French Guiana.
The last total lunar eclipse took place on August 28 2007. The next will take place on December 21 2010.
This Red Moon fable points out that on this Oblate Spheroid, information is everything!
Path of the Moon through Earth's umbral and penumbral shadows during the Total Lunar Eclipse of February 20, 2008 (Eastern Standard Time) – Image Credit: NASA
Additional information on this beautiful and unique Oblate Spheroid astronomical event can be found: