Sunday, December 19, 2010

Care to dance?

In just about 36 hours, we will be treated to a rare spectacle when the full moon is totally eclipsed from the Sun, by the Earth's shadow.  These events are quite spectacular and I will be observing this celestial dance from the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter where we will be hosting approximately 30 guests for a special lunar eclipse program.  For information on this and other eclipses, I highly recommend NASA's Eclipse Web site.  I took the picture to the left with a handheld point and shoot camera near maximum of the October 27th 2004 Lunar eclipse.  The color and darkness of the moon varies from eclipse to eclipse and is affected by the amount and types of dust, volcanic ash and other pollutants in the atmosphere.  The diagram below can be found on Fred Espinak's 2010 lunar eclipse page and shows the path of travel the moon will take through Earth's shadow, as well as the various timings of the event.

Penumbral Eclipse Begins:          05:29:17 UT
Partial Eclipse Begins:                06:32:37 UT
Total Eclipse Begins:                  07:40:47 UT
Greatest Eclipse:                        08:16:57 UT
Total Eclipse Ends:                    08:53:08 UT
Partial Eclipse Ends:                  10:01:20 UT
Penumbral Eclipse Ends:            11:04:31 UT

While all the talk is of the moon this week, I did manage to get out this morning and observe the Sun through my Hydrogen Alpha Solar Telescope.  There is not a tremendous amount of activity, with only one active region (AR 11135) near the central meridian in the northern hemisphere.  There are some small plage areas in the east, yet none are remarkable.  Perhaps the most interesting features were the striking dark filaments along the northeastern limb, as well as the broad filament dominating the southern polar region.  The sketch was completed at 1658 UT (9:58 AM MST) under slightly hazy skies.

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