Total lunar eclipse on December 20 or 21, depending on time zone
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There is a lunar eclipse on the night of 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 will not be a total lunar eclipse this far north on the sky’s dome until December 21, 2485.
That is 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.
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 tonight. 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 the U.S. West Coast, the eclipse starts at late evening. As for the North American east coast and the South American west coast, the eclipse happens in the predawn hours tomorrow. In northwestern Europe, northwestern Africa and the South American East Coast, the lunar eclipse is seen at or close to dawn.
Places that see the lunar eclipse tomorrow – on Tuesday evening, December 21. Northeast Asia, the Philippines, eastern Indonesia, eastern Australia and New Zealand.
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
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.
Written by Bruce McClure