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Lunar Eclipse Will Supersize Blood-Red Moon Saturday

A total lunar eclipse will occur early Saturday morning, Dec.10, casting the moon into shadow and
making it appear bright red and supersized.
In North America, skywatchers located in western Canada and the United States should have a great
view of the eclipse, which will start at around 7:45 a.m. EST (4:45 a.m. PST, 1245 GMT), when the
Earth's shadow begins to creep across the lunar disk.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the sun and the moon, throwing the
moon into shadow.
"For people in the western United States, the eclipse is deepest just before local dawn," NASA
scientists said in a statement. "Face west to see the red moon sinking into the horizonas the sun
rises behind your back. It's a rare way to begin your day."
Observers in Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and central and eastern Asia should also be
well placed for the celestial show. [Video: Return of the Blood Red Moon]
Unlike solar eclipses that are often visible to people within only a narrow slice of the globe, a lunar
eclipse can be seen by anyone on the moon-facing side of the planet, explained Alan MacRobert,
senior editor of the magazine Sky & Telescope.
"We're all looking at this together," MacRobert said in a statement.
The reddened moon
By 9:05 a.m. EST (6:05 a.m. PST, 1405 GMT), the moon will be fully engulfed in a glow that could
range from light orange to blood red.
Skywatchers in the central time zone may get only a short glimpse, as the moon will set while it is
only partially eclipsed, before the total eclipse stage begins, MacRoberts said. Unfortunately, people
farther east will also miss out on the opportunity due to the setting moon and rising sun.
But don't let location hold you back from enjoying the sky show. The skywatching website Slooh is
broadcasting a free, real-time feed of the total lunar eclipse from Australia, Asia and Hawaii
beginning at 8:00 a.m. EST (5:00 a.m. PST, 1300 GMT). Slooh's three-hour broadcast will allow
interested skywatchers to watch online as the total lunar eclipse unfolds in real time.
For those who are favorably placed to see it with their own eyes, this eclipse promises a stunning
show, NASA officials said.
"Not only will the moon be beautifully red, it will also be inflated by the moon illusion," NASA
scientists explained. "For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging
moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground
In reality, the moon is not any wider, but the human brain sees it differently, and those in the
western United States will notice that the moon looks supersized.

And despite passing into shadow, the moon will be appear to be illuminated in dazzling reddish hues.
"[T]he delicate layer of dusty air surrounding our planet reddens and redirects the light of the sun,
filling the dark behind Earth with a sunset-red glow," NASA officials said.
Depending on the state of the atmosphere at the time of the eclipse, observers can expect shades
from bright orange to deep red. This should create a dramatic scene for interested photographers,
and Sky & Telescope suggests using a long telephoto lens or even a small telescope to immortalize
the special moment.
The upcoming eclipse also offers a special chance for some observers to catch a rare "senelion," the
sight of the moon and the sun at the same time during an eclipse, due to an optical illusion.
A colorful eclipse
In a video made by NASA, atmospheric scientist and eclipse expert Richard Keen of the University of
Colorado offered advice for those hoping to view Saturday's show.
"During the lunar eclipse, most of the light illuminating the moon passes through the stratosphere,
where it is reddened by scattering," Keen said. "If the stratosphere is loaded with dust from volcanic
eruptions, the eclipse will be dark. A clear stratosphere, on the other hand, produces a brighter
eclipse. At the moment, the stratosphere is mostly clear, with little input from recent volcanoes. That
explains the brightness of the eclipse."
It might also be possible to see a hint of turquoise as the bodies become aligned, he added.
"Light passing through the upper atmosphere penetrates the ozone layer, which absorbs red light
and actually makes the passing light-ray bluer," Keen said. "This can be seen as a soft blue fringe
around the red core of Earth's shadow. Look for the turquoise near the beginning of the eclipse,
when the edge of Earth's shadow is sweeping across the lunar terrain."
According to Sky & Telescope, the next partial lunar eclipse will happen June 4, 2012, and should be
visible across most of North America. The next total lunar eclipse will occur in April 2014.
* Photos: Long Total Lunar Eclipse of June 15, 2011
* Total Eclipse of the Moon (Infographic)
* December 2011 Skywatching Events
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