The Moon's Holiday Gift

The December holiday sky show doesn't stop with the Geminid meteor shower. In the very early morning of December 21 (or late night of December 20, depending on your time zone), a total lunar eclipse will make a dramatically colorful appearance -- from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and perhaps gray. The next total lunar eclipse will begin when the moon moves into Earth's penumbral shadow on December 21, 2010 at 5:29 UTC.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes behind Earth, into Earth's shadow. This type of eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth, and moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with Earth in the middle. Hence, there is always a full moon the night of a lunar eclipse. The type and length of an eclipse depend upon the moon's location in its orbit relative to the Earth and sun.

The last lunar eclipse of 2010 is especially well placed for observers throughout North America. The eclipse occurs as the moon passes through the northern portion of Earth's shadow, just four days before perigee, when the moon is closest to Earth.

Read full article: The Moon's Holiday Gift  from NASA

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