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Lunar Eclipse Tonight: When, Where And How To Watch It

Len Ly |
December 20, 2010 | 8:01 a.m. PST

Senior Staff Reporter

The total lunar eclipse on July 16, 2000. Photo by Fred Espenak/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
The total lunar eclipse on July 16, 2000. Photo by Fred Espenak/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Skywatchers across North America will be able to see a total lunar eclipse on Monday night until early Tuesday.

The rare event occurs when Earth lies between the sun and moon, causing the full moon to be totally engulfed in Earth's shadow. February 2008 was the last time there was a total lunar eclipse.

However, the moon will not turn completely dark because Earth's atmosphere filters and bends sunlight, allowing the light to indirectly pass onto the moon. As the moon moves deeper into Earth's shadow, it will appear more orange and red.

The eclipse will last approximately 3.5 hours. In a rare turnout, it also coincides with Tuesday's northern winter solstice, the beginning of winter in the hemisphere. This places the moon high in the sky.

Beginning stages of the eclipse will also be visible in Europe, West Africa and South America before it's interrupted by moonset and sunrise; later stages of the eclipse will be visible in western Asia after moonrise.

On average, there are two to three lunar eclipses annually. The next total lunar eclipse visible in the continental U.S. will not arrive until April 14-15, 2014.

Some ways to experience the eclipse:

Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles will host a public viewing party.

Don't want to brave the cold outdoors or lack clear skies in your area? You can watch the eclipse online at NASA. The agency also has a Flickr group you can upload pictures of the eclipse to and a text campaign you can sign up for to receive viewing tips.

When to watch the eclipse, according to StarDate magazine:

Pacific Time Zone, Dec. 20-21

Eclipse begins 10:32 p.m.

Complete eclipse 11:41 p.m.-12:53 a.m.

Eclipse ends 2:01 a.m.

Mountain Time Zone, Dec. 20-21

Eclipse begins 11:32 p.m.

Complete eclipse 12:41-1:53 a.m.

Eclipse ends 3:01 a.m.

Central Time Zone, Dec. 21

Eclipse begins 12:32 a.m.

Complete eclipse 1:41-2:53 a.m.

Eclipse ends 4:01 a.m.

Eastern Time Zone, Dec. 21

Eclipse begins 1:32 a.m.

Complete eclipse 2:41-3:53 a.m.

Eclipse ends 5:01 a.m.

Reach reporter Len Ly here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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