Total Lunar Eclipse Wednesday

Thanks for stopping by to check out what’s going on in the sky this week. I will try to keep you up to date on celestial events you can see with your very own eyes, weather permitting of course.

I’ve looked skyward since age 11 and am constantly amazed at how many wonderful things go on over our heads all the time. If it’s clear Wednesday night — and the forecast looks good so far — we’ll get to see a total eclipse of the moon, an infrequent and very beautiful event. A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth and moon line up squarely in that order. When this happens, the moon slowly slips into Earth’s shadow and is darkened by degrees. Here are the times (Central Standard) Wednesday evening Feb. 20 to keep in mind for the eclipse:

* 7:43 p.m. — Start of partial eclipse

* 9:01 p.m. — Start of total eclipse

* 9:26 p.m. — Middle of total eclipse

* 9:51 p.m. — End of total eclipse

* 11:09 p.m. — End of partial eclipse

As you can see, a lunar eclipse is a leisurely event lasting over three hours. The moon starts out perfectly full and brilliant but is transformed to a deep, dark orange by totality. The color is caused by sunlight bent by Earth’s atmosphere that spills into the otherwise black shadow cone.

The weather is forecast to be very cold Wednesday night. If you want to pick just one time to go out, I’d suggest either the start or shortly before the finish of totality. The moon will be most colorful then. It will also be easy to see the planet Saturn, just to the left of the fully eclipsed moon, and the bright star Regulus, just above the moon. What an eyeful!

We’d love to hear of your eclipse impressions. Feel free to share your observations of the event on this blog.

Bob King

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