How to View Tonight's Total Lunar Eclipse

There is a lunar eclipse on December 20 or 21 – depending on your time zone. See below for the date in your location. This December solstice eclipse is also the northernmost total lunar eclipse for several centuries.

There won’t be a total lunar eclipse this far north on the sky’s dome until December 21, 2485.

That’s because this eclipse is happening almost simultaneously with the December solstice – which in 2010 occurs on December 21 – when the sun will be southernmost for this year. Remember, a totally eclipsed full moon has to lie exactly opposite the sun. The winter sun rides low to the south now, as it crosses the sky each day. So this December full moon is far to the north on the sky’s dome. It rides high in the sky – much like the June solstice sun.

December 21 solstice marks day of southernmost sun

Remember, it’s the same eclipse – happening in the same magical moments – for all of us. But our clocks will say different times.

Places that see the lunar eclipse during the night of December 20/21. North and South America, the islands of the Pacific, Greenland, northwestern Europe and northwestern Africa. For the islands of the Pacific, Hawaii and Alaska, the eclipse starts at early to mid-evening on December 20. On the U.S. West Coast, the eclipse starts at late evening December 20. As for the North American east coast and the South American west coast, the eclipse happens in the predawn hours on December 21. In northwestern Europe, northwestern Africa and the South American East Coast, the lunar eclipse is seen at or close to dawn on December 21.

Places that see the lunar eclipse tomorrow – on Tuesday evening, December 21. Northeast Asia, the Philippines, far eastern Indonesia (New Guinea), eastern Australia and New Zealand. If you live in this part of the world, look for the already eclipsed moon to rise over your east-northeast horizon right after sunset on Tuesday, December 21. Find a level and unobstructed eastern horizon for an optimal view of the later stages of the lunar eclipse. Binoculars may be helpful.

The times for the eclipse – below – are listed in Universal Time (and U.S. time zones):

Times for the December 20/21 lunar eclipse.

Partial eclipse starts:
Dec 21 6:33 UT
Dec 21 1:33 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
Dec 21 12:33 a.m. Central Standard Time
Dec 20 11:33 p.m. Mountain Standard Time
Dec 20 10:33 p.m. Pacific Standard Time

Total eclipse starts:Dec 21 7:41 UT
Dec 21 2:41 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
Dec 21 1:41 a.m. Central Standard Time
Dec 21 12:41 a.m. Mountain Standard Time
Dec 20 11:41 p.m. Pacific Standard Time

Total eclipse ends:
Dec 21 8:53 UT
Dec 21 3:53 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
Dec 21 2:53 a.m. Central Standard Time
Dec 21 1:53 a.m. Mountain Standard Time
Dec 21 12:53 a.m. Pacific Standard Time

Partial eclipse ends:
Dec 21 10:01 UT
Dec 21 5:01 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
Dec 21 4:01 a.m. Central Standard Time
Dec 21 3:01 a.m. Mountain Standard Time
Dec 21 2:01 a.m. Pacific Standard Time

How do I translate Universal Time to my time?

A total lunar eclipse takes place whenever the moon passes right through the Earth’s dark umbral shadow. This can only happen at full moon, which is when the moon has swung directly opposite the sun in our sky, in its monthly orbit of Earth. During tonight’s total lunar eclipse, the moon will be totally immersed in Earth’s shadow for 72 minutes. A partial eclipse lasting for nearly the same period of time will precede and follow the total eclipse. The entire eclipse from start to finish will last about 3.5 hours.

Cloudy where you are? Try NASA’s live webcam of the eclipse.

Almost total lunar eclipse photo from Squeaky Marmot’s photostream

Written by Bruce McClure

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1 Comments

  • sanjeet kumar

    we here in Fiji have just witnessed the Lunar Eclipse which was fascinating and last for approxiamtely one and half hours....cheers