Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

The Earth's shadow travels over the moon's surface during a full lunar eclipse on Wednesday, Feb 20, 2008.

Earth's shadow crosses the moon in lunar eclipse
Updated Wed. Feb. 20 2008 10:57 PM ET

The moon was almost completely in shadow at 10pm, Feb 20, 2008. News Staff

Canadian skies were mostly clear for Wednesday's lunar eclipse, the full moon bright in the sky as Earth's shadow crawled out from the left of the glowing sphere, ultimately turning it pale orange.

Starting at 8:42 p.m. ET (7:43 p.m. CT, 6:43 p.m. MT and 5:43 p.m. PT) and lasting for three hours, the last total lunar eclipse before 2010 was visible anywhere in North America lucky enough to have clear skies, according to NASA. It was also visible in Europe and Africa.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth's shadow blocks the sun's rays from hitting the moon. The three bodies must be perfectly aligned during a full moon, a rare event because the orbits of the moon and Earth are not on the same plane.

What began around 8:30 p.m. as a faint hint of darkness at the bottom left of the moon's visible surface turned to almost complete darkness by about 9:30 p.m. The moon was completely shadowed around 10 p.m., appearing with an orange hue.

The lunar colour show lasted for about 50 minutes before turning dark brown, then returning to its usual glow.

In close proximity to the moon were the evening's other two bright lights, the planet Saturn and Regulus, a bright star. Together, the three bodies created a stunning triangle.

According to NASA's Laura Motel, the exact color of an eclipsed moon depends on the amount of dust and clouds in the atmosphere.

"If there are extra particles in the atmosphere, from say a recent volcanic eruption, the moon will appear a darker shade of red," Motel wrote in a news release.

Science centres across the country, including the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto and University of Calgary's Rothney Astrophysical Observatory, hosted free viewing parties, offering telescopes for eclipse enthusiasts to view the proceedings up close.

With files from the Canadian Press


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