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Sunday night, Jan. 20, will bring the first celestial spectacle of 2019 for skywatchers all across the Americas: a total eclipse of the moon. This one promises to deliver a deeply reddened eclipsed moon and a lengthy totality. As a bonus, totality will commence before midnight across the continental U.S. and Canada, and Monday is a holiday for many schoolchildren who may like to stay up late and see the entire event.
The next total lunar eclipse visible from North America will occur in May 2022 — but half the country will miss the beginning of that one. We won't see another complete total lunar eclipse that is visible coast to coast in North America until March 2025, so let's make the most out of this one!
Objects - Round - Shadow - Circle - Earth
When objects enter the round umbral shadow (white circle) produced by the Earth's globe, direct sunlight cannot reach them — but reddened light, which has been refracted by Earth's atmosphere, can. The moon's orbit (gray line) is tilted with respect to the ecliptic (yellow line), so it usually misses the shadow. But when the moon is full while it is also near the location where the lines cross, it touches Earth's shadow and a total lunar eclipse will occur. Objects transiting the larger penumbral shadow still receive some sunlight. During maximum eclipse, shown here at 0514 GMT (12:14 a.m. EST), the dramatically reduced moonlight will make some deep sky objects visible, such as the nearby Beehive star cluster and the Great Nebula in Orion's sword.
Because the Earth is a solid sphere with sunlight shining on it, our planet casts a circular shadow into space opposite from the sun. Of course, the black shadow is invisible on the black background of space. But if an object, such as the International Space Station or the...
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