On Wednesday morning, Oct. 8th, there will be a total lunar eclipse. Observers across the Pacific side of Earth can see the normally-pale full Moon turn a beautiful shade of red as it passes through the sunset-colored shadow of our planet. The Moon first dips into Earth's shadow at approximately 9:15 UT (2:15 a.m. PDT), kicking off the partial phase of the eclipse. Totality, when the Moon is fully immersed, begins at 10:25 UT (3:25 a.m. PDT) and lasts for nearly an hour. During that time, the Moon will look something like this:
Alan Dyer took the picture during a similar eclipse over Gleichen, Alberta, on Dec. 21, 2010. "The coppery Moon framed by the bright stars of winter was a wonderful sight," he says.
Because the Moon is in shadow during an eclipse, it should be dark, right? Obviously not. A quick trip to the Moon explains the bright red color: Imagine yourself standing on a dusty lunar plain looking up at the sky. Overhead hangs Earth, nightside down, completely hiding the sun behind it. The eclipse is underway.
You might expect Earth seen in this way to be utterly dark, but it's not. The rim of the planet is on fire! As you scan your eye around Earth's circumference, you're seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once. This incredible light beams into the heart of Earth's shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the Moon into a great red orb.
Oct. 8th: Don't miss it! Eclipse resources: NASA video, animated eclipse, live webcast.