There is big news this month. Next Saturday night and Sunday morning, a week from tomorrow, 10 & 11 December there’s going to be a total lunar eclipse (or eclipse of the Moon). And because yesterday was Thursday AND
1 December, public shows are also next week.
I’m including the entire release on the eclipse in this newsletter and it’s kind of long, so I’ll tell you about this month’s public shows first and then all about the lunar eclipse. I’m a little worried about this one because it occurs at midnight and I’m afraid that people who’ve had a little too much Christmas cheer at the party will see this glowing red disc straight overhead at midnight and FREAK OUT. So please spread the word about this one as much as possible! THANKS!
1. December’s public Planetarium shows 8, 9 and 10 December 2. THE MIDNIGHT ECLIPSE!
1. 6:30 p.m. The Star
7:00 p.m. Quality Time with the Star Lady Since 1 December was a Thursday this year, public shows are REALLY early.
They are next week 8,9 and 10 December. The 6:30 p.m. show in December is always ‘The Star’, an examination of what scientists think the Star of Bethlehem might have been.
Since we’re having the lunar eclipse this month, the 7:00 p.m. show will be ‘Quality Time with the Star Lady’ so I can tell you all about it!
Celebrate Christmas a little early this year with our free public Planetarium shows!
2. THE MIDNIGHT ECLIPSE
The big news this month is that there’s a total lunar eclipse. The bad news is that maximum eclipse is just after midnight so you’ll have to stay up late to see it. The good news is that it occurs late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, 10 and 11 December.
The eclipse starts at 10:46 p.m. on Saturday night when the Moon will be two fist-widths from straight up in the eastern sky. The Moon will be completely within the umbra, the darker part of Earth’s shadow at six minutes after midnight (12:06 a.m.).
We’re almost exactly under the center of this eclipse and maximum eclipse occurs at 12:31 a.m. on Sunday morning when the eclipsed Moon will be one fist-width to the north of straight up. The Moon will start to leave the umbra at 12:57 a.m. and by 2:17 a.m., the eclipse will be over. It will last about three and a half hours and the Moon will spend 51 minutes in the darkest part of Earth’s shadow.
Of course, as always, I can’t tell you what the Moon will look like because its appearance in a total eclipse depends on the cleanliness of the air you breathe. You can usually still see the Moon in a lunar eclipse because the Earth’s air bends the light of the Sun around the Earth to shine on the Moon. The Moon usually looks blood red when it’s eclipsed because that sunlight is passing through the Earth’s sunrise-sunset ring and we all know the prime colors of a sunset (or sunrise) right? If Earth’s air is dirty, the Moon can be very dark and almost disappear. But there haven’t been any major volcanic eruptions lately and I suspect that the Moon will be a beautiful orange-red.
There are many superstitions about lunar eclipses, most of them dealing with pregnant women. So spread the word about this one. And if you do want to see it, it’s worth the effort. There won’t be another total lunar eclipse anywhere in the world until April 2014.
The Moon is in a really cool spot for this eclipse. You guys are definitely familiar with Orion the Hunter and at totality, the Moon will be just to the west of the middle of a line drawn between Orion’s shoulders and Capella, the sixth brightest star. It will also be about 10 degrees to the east of Aldebaran, the bright red eye of Taurus the Bull.
If you stay up until 1 a.m. watching the eclipse, and you look at the eastern horizon, measure 1 fist-width up from due east and you’ll see another bright red star. That’s not a star, that’s the planet Mars. If you turn around and face west sometime between midnight and 1, you’ll see a very bright star about 4 or 5 fist-widths above the western horizon. It will be quite a bit brighter than that bright star that’s to the south and east of Orion’s feet. Since that star is Sirius, the brightest star, you should figure out right away that the bright star in the western sky isn’t a star and it’s not. It’s Jupiter.
Enjoy the eclipse and spread the word. I don’t want the police to have to deal with people who’ve just left the party and discovered this blood red disc straight overhead and have NO idea what it is!