Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lunar Eclipse

Jiyang Chen
On December 10, 2011, we will have a special opportunity to view a lunar eclipse.  During a lunar eclipse, the Earth passes directly between the Sun and the full Moon, casting its shadow on the face of the moon for a period of time.  During the hours of a lunar eclipse, anyone on the right side of Earth can view the spectacle.

At the beginning of a lunar eclipse, the Earth’s shadow creeps across the bright face of the full moon, creating an area of darkness that increases gradually in size. Totality occurs when the Earth’s shadow covers the Moon’s face completely.  This lasts at least a few minutes, although every eclipse is different.  During totality, the Moon’s face appears to be a deep red.  This is due to light rays from the outermost layers of the Sun that are bent and separated by the Earth’s atmosphere.  Only the red wavelengths are bent in such a way that they reflect off the Moon’s surface.  The rest of the wavelengths pass by the Moon and shine out into space.
The upcoming lunar eclipse will be visible from Greensboro as long as the weather is clear.   From our point of view, the eclipse will not be a total one.  The Moon will enter the Earth’s shadow around 6:32 am. The Moon sets at 7:17 am. During this time, a partial lunar eclipse will be visible.

As you are getting ready for the day, take a few minutes to step outside and take a look!  If you have a Canterbury 8th grader, ask him or her to explain how a lunar eclipse is different from a solar eclipse.   (In a solar eclipse, the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and casts its shadow on a tiny portion of the Earth’s surface.  This occurs during the day when the Moon is new, and lasts only a few minutes.)

Erin Ringrose
7th and 8th Grade Science Teacher
Science Olympiad Coach

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