Total lunar eclipse today

A TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE will happen today, December 21, visible from certain parts of the world. (Shown above is an amateur video of a similar eclipse from 2007.)

The whole of the eclipse will be seen from the North American continent, Iceland and Greenland. (For observers in the western parts of Canada and the USA, the eclipse will actually begin before midnight on December 20.)

For the UK, the eclipse will begin just before sunrise and moonset, so observers there will see only the initial stages of the eclipse before the sky becomes too bright and the Moon dips below the horizon.

For observers in Australia and New Zealand, the eclipse will already be in progress by the time the Moon rises above the horizon…which will be at different times depending upon location.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon goes “behind” the Earth (with respect to the Sun) and moves through the Earth’s shadow. So the Sun, the Earth and the Moon have to be in a line, with Earth in the middle. Here’s a video that demonstrates it:

You don’t need a telescope to watch a lunar eclipse (although you’re welcome to do so if you have one.) Just go outside in the mid-evening (for Australian observers) after the Moon has risen and look to the east.

The times of moonrise vary depending on where you are in Australia. The times of moonrise—in local times, with daylight saving included—are:

Sydney — 8:05pm

Melbourne — 8:42pm

Brisbane — 6:40pm

Canberra — 8:17pm

Hobart — 8:49pm

Adelaide — 8:30pm

Darwin — 7:11pm

Alice Springs — 7:21pm

Perth — 7:26pm

There are usually a couple of lunar eclipses each year, but they’re not always visible from the same spots. For any particular location on Earth, you might get one or two lunar eclipses per year.

Some are better than others, depending upon how much of Earth’s shadow the Moon moves through.

From start to finish, they can be up to a couple of hours long.

For Australian observers, the next lunar eclipse after this one, will be on June 15, 2011, when again about half of it will be visible. After that, the following one will be on December 10, 2011, when we’ll see the whole total eclipse.

For more details on how, when and where to see the eclipse, please refer to these web pages:

Australia

New Zealand

North America

UK

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