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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter Solstice And Lunar Eclipse Tuesday

North Americans will have the best seats in the house on Tuesday as the winter solstice and a total lunar eclipse colide for the first time in 456 years, the last time being in AD 1554.

The arrival of the winter solstice cannot be seen, but is described as the instant when the Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun, resulting in the shortest day of the year as well as the longest night of the year. The summer solstice happens in June when the reverse is true.

This year the winter solstice begins on Tuesday evening at 6:38 p.m. ET, which is 8:08 p.m. NT, 7:38 p.m. AT, 5:38 p.m. CT, 4:38 p.m. MT, and 3:38 p.m. PT.

NASA predicts that at 1:33 a.m. ET on Tuesday, "Earth's shadow will appear as a dark red bite at the edge of the lunar disk." After aboun an hour, the "bite" will  grow to cover the entire moon. This stage, known as "totality," will probably start at 2:41 a.m. ET and last 72 minutes.

NASA suggests the best time to view the event, will be at 3:17a.m. ET, "when the moon will be in deepest shadow, displaying the most fantastic shades of coppery red."

I might be a little groggy at work on Wednesday!