The period when Earth’s shadow completely blocks the moon, which is commonly referred to as totality, will last a unusually longer 1 hour and 40 minutes. The last time that the moon was covered for this long was in July 2000, when it lasted for 1 hour and 47 minutes, 7 minutes longer than this years event.
The full moon normally glows from reflected sunlight, which makes it visible to the naked eye at nighttime, and even during the daytime in some instances. A total lunar eclipse happens when the moon passes through the long shadow which is cast by the Earth and is blocked from the sunlight that illuminates it normally.
As the moon plunges deeper into the Earth’s shadow, the disk will appear to gradually change color, turning from silver to orange or red. This is because some indirect sunlight still reaches the moon after passing through the Earth’s atmosphere, which scatters blue light. Only red light strikes the moon, giving it an eerie crimson hue.
It’s difficult to predict the exact shade the moon will take this year, which will depend on how much dust and clouds are in the atmosphere during the eclipse. Since the moon will pass close to the center of the Earth’s shadow, the total eclipse phase will be longer than usual, said NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
The entire eclipse will last a little over 5 1/2 hours. Observers in Europe will miss the first part of the show because it will occur before the moon rises. Eastern Asia and eastern Australia won’t catch the final stages, which will happen after the moon sets. Portions of South America will be able see the moon entirely shrouded. Lunar eclipses are safe to watch with the naked eye, unlike solar eclipses, in which you can cause severe eye damage if you watch them with the naked eye.
Keith Gleason, who runs the Sommers-Bausch Observatory in Boulder, Colo., is disappointed that he will not have a ringside seat to the upcoming eclipse. The last event of this kind visible from the U.S. occurred on Dec. 21, 2010, which coincided with winter solstice and was widely viewed. Some 1,400 people showed up for a viewing party at the observatory in Boulder.
The next event of this kind for 2011 will occur on Dec. 10, 2011 with best viewing results from Asia and Australia. The moon will be completely blotted out for 51 minutes. Only parts of the U.S. including Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest will catch a glimpse of this event. The rest of you the continental U.S. will have to wait until April 15, 2014 to witness another one of these events.
The schedule for this years first event:
Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 17:24:34 UT
Partial Eclipse Begins: 18:22:56 UT
Total Eclipse Begins: 19:22:30 UT
Greatest Eclipse: 20:12:37 UT
Total Eclipse Ends: 21:02:42 UT
Partial Eclipse Ends: 22:02:15 UT
Penumbral Eclipse Ends: 23:00:45 UT
Good luck and enjoy the first total lunar eclipse on June 15, 2011 and peace my friends!