Tuesday’s Total Lunar Eclipse Favors Far West

Contacts:
J. Kelly Beatty, Executive Editor
    617-864-7360 x148, kbeatty@SkyandTelescope.com

Alan MacRobert, Senior Editor
    617-864-7360 x151, macrobert@SkyandTelescope.com

Note to Editors/Producers: This release is accompanied by high-quality graphics and an animation; see end of release.

For more information, including tips on how to photograph the eclipse, please direct your readers/viewers to our online general-interest story.

The second total lunar eclipse of 2007 happens in the hours after midnight on Tuesday morning, August 28th. For North Americans, the event takes place with the Moon sinking low in the west before or during dawn.

The farther west you are, the better. In the Pacific time zone, the partial eclipse begins at 1:51 a.m. PDT. Totality, with the Moon completely in shadow, runs from 2:52 to 3:23 a.m. PDT. The last partial stage ends at 5:24 a.m. PDT, at which time the Moon is still fairly well up in the southwest as dawn approaches.

Farther east, these phases happen an hour later by the clock in each successive time zone and — more importantly — nearer to sunrise. In the Midwest you'll see the Moon approach the horizon and become lost in the light of dawn while totality is still in progress. And in New England the Moon will be low and the sky quite bright before totality even starts.

Here are the key event times for the eclipse, given for North American time zones. Compare these with your times of sunrise and moonset, which depend on your location (dashes: event not visible):

Total Eclipse of the Moon, August 28, 2007
Eclipse stagePDTMDTCDTEDT
Partial eclipse begins1:51 a.m.2:51 a.m.3:51 a.m.4:51 a.m.
Total eclipse begins2:52 a.m.3:52 a.m.4:52 a.m.5:52 a.m.
Total eclipse ends4:23 a.m.5:23 a.m.6:23 a.m.
Partial eclipse ends5:24 a.m.6:24 a.m.

The previous total lunar eclipse, on March 3rd, favored eastern North America and Europe. The next one, on February 20, 2008, will be placed in the sky to give virtually everyone in the Americas a good view of it.

How and Why

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon form a nearly straight line in space, so that the full Moon passes through Earth's shadow. Unlike a solar eclipse, which requires special equipment to observe safely, you can watch a lunar eclipse with your unaided eyes. Binoculars or a telescope will enhance the view dramatically.

The outer part of Earth's shadow, called the penumbra, creates only a slight dusky shading on the lunar disk. But as the Moon begins to move into the central and darkest part of Earth's shadow, the umbra, there's an obvious and ever-larger "bite" in the full Moon. The partial eclipse is then under way.

The total eclipse begins when the Moon is fully within the umbra. On August 28th, totality lasts 1 hour 31 minutes. But the Moon likely won't disappear completely. It usually glows as an eerie, coppery red disk in the sky, as sunlight scattered around the edge of our atmosphere paints the lunar surface with a warm glow. This is light from all the sunrises and sunsets that are in progress around Earth at the time.


Sky & Telescope is making the following illustrations, photographs, and animation available to editors and producers. Permission is granted for one-time, nonexclusive use in print and broadcast media, as long as appropriate credits (as noted in each caption) are included. Web publication must include a link to SkyandTelescope.com.

Aug'07 US eclipse map
This map shows where the Moon will be setting during key stages of the August 28th total lunar eclipse. As the Moon sets in the west, the Sun will be rising at almost the same time in the east, meaning the eclipsed portion of the Moon will be washed out in a bright sky. Click here to get a high-resolution version of this illustration. Click here to get a version without labels.
S&T: Gregg Dinderman
Aug'07 world eclipse map
This map shows where the Moon will be setting or rising during key stages of the August 28th total lunar eclipse. In North America, the Sun will be rising in the east at almost the same time that the Moon is setting in the west, meaning that the eclipsed portion of the Moon will be washed out in a bright sky. Click here to get a high-resolution version of this illustration. Click here to get a version without labels.
S&T: Gregg Dinderman
Aug'07 eclipse path
During the lunar eclipse on August 28th, the full Moon will pass through the darkest part of Earth's shadow, the umbra. Viewed in a dark sky, the completely eclipsed Moon may still be faintly visible. See the table above for corresponding times in Mountain, Central, and Eastern time zones. Click here to get a high-resolution version of this illustration. Click here to get a version without labels.
S&T: Gregg Dinderman
Lunar Eclipse Geometry
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the shadow cast by the sunlit Earth. When the Moon enters the outer penumbra, where just part of the Sun's light is blocked, it becomes only slightly dimmer. Only when it passes into the shadow’s core, the umbra, does it look markedly darker. This illustration is available as a publication-quality JPEG (399 kilobytes); it is also available without labels (344 kilobytes).
Sky & Telescope illustration by Gregg Dinderman.
Eclipsed Moon
Taking a break from Game 4 of the World Series on October 27, 2004, Sky & Telescope editor in chief Rick Fienberg snapped this view of that evening's total eclipse of the Moon. Click on the image for a larger version.
Sky & Telescope photograph by Richard Tresch Fienberg.
Lunar-Eclipse Sequence
Aligning his camera on the same star for nine successive exposures, Sky & Telescope contributing photographer Akira Fujii captured this record of the Moon’s progress dead center through the Earth’s shadow in July 2000. This image is available as a publication-quality JPEG (1.5 megabytes).
Courtesy Akira Fujii and Sky & Telescope.
Lunar Eclipse Movie
In this sequence of 291 images taken during a total lunar eclipse on September 27, 1996, 1 second represents 30 minutes of elapsed time. Coloring has been added to simulate the Moon's appearance when it was completely within Earth's shadow; the totally eclipsed Moon has been brightened for clarity. During totality, dark, murky blobs are seen crossing the lunar disk — an effect caused by variations in the tiny amount of sunlight that leaks onto the Moon after being refracted (bent) through Earth's atmosphere. This animation can be viewed or downloaded as a broadcast-quality (3.7-megabyte) QuickTime animation.
Sky & Telescope animation by Craig M. Utter and Gregg Dinderman; images courtesy António Cidadão.

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