Winter begins in a different way this year. It begins with a total lunar eclipse. Lunar eclipses are not very rare but falling an the exact day of the solstice is. The last time it happened, according to Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory, was on December 21st, 1638. The next one is to occur on December 21st, 2094.
Usually, the moon throws a beautiful glow across the snow-covered landscape creating a winter wonderland but during this solstice that will change. Instead of the soft white glow, it will be more of an amber color giving an eerie, Halloween-ish hue to the snow. The moon itself will be a copper-colored disc and should be a spectacular view.
If you were on the Moon looking at the Earth during the eclipse you would see the circumference of the Earth appear to have a fiery glow. Because some of the light from the Sun passes by the Earth and through the atmosphere, it casts a reddish glow on the moon.
The eclipse begins at 12:33 CST on Tuesday morning. That is when you can first see the Earth’s shadow start to appear on the edge of the Moon. It will take about an hour before the moon is completely engulfed. The total eclipse will begin at 1:41 CST and will last a little more than an hour, (about 72 minutes).
Though the Moon will have a “warm” glow, it will likely be cold outside so your viewing time may be brief. The best time to get a good view of the total eclipse will be around 2:20 CST. That’s when the shadow will be darkest causing the moon to have a beautiful orange hue. It may even look like the Moon is made of cheese. Perhaps, I’ll have some wine with that.
If you would like to see an animated map of the Solstice Lunar Eclipse visit Shadow and Substance link listed on the right of this page.