Tonight is the last chance until December 2010 to witness a total lunar eclipse. This is the third such eclipse in the past year. With any luck the weather will cooperate. It looks like there will be breaks in the clouds over the city, which should make for dramatic views. Break out the tripods and cameras!
A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth wedges itself between the sun and moon, casting its shadow on the latter. Unlike a solar eclipse you can look at a lunar eclipse without frying your retinas! The partial eclipse, when the earth's shadow starts to take a bite out of the moon, begins at 8:43 p.m.. By 10 p.m. the moon will be swallowed by the earth's shadow and will remain that way until nearly 11 o'clock. Bad Astronomy Blog and NASA have lots more details. As the earth's shadow creeps across the moon the moon doesn't get completely dark as you might expect, but turns brownish or even blood red. The reddish hue is because some sunlight gets refracted through the earth's atmosphere.
The eclipse will be easy to find, just look for the moon. AMNY mentions that volunteers from the Amateur Astronomers Association will be at the following locations with binoculars and telescopes:
- Carl Schurz Park in Manhattan, overlooking the East River at 86th Street (4,5,6 to 86th Street)
- Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, the now out-of-service airport. (No. 2 train to the last stop, transfer to Q53 bus)
- Park Slope at Seventh Avenue and Ninth Street (F to 7th Ave)
- Northern Boulevard and 82nd St in Jackson Heights, Queens, in front of the firehouse. (E,F,V,R,7 to 82nd Street)
There will also be events at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park starting at 7:30 this evening. And, if clouds get in the way, well, there's always animations from Orbiting Frog.
During the lunar eclipse, but on the other side of the world, the Navy will attempt to shoot down a failing spy satellite filled with toxic fuel.