Saturday, 2:15 PM
Eclipse should shine through partly cloudy skies
(John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/file 2003)
A total lunar eclipse could be seen over the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge on Nov. 8, 2003.
By Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
Tonight’s total lunar eclipse should be visible across Massachusetts with partly cloudy skies expected to become increasingly clear as the moon slips completely into the earth’s celestial shadow.
If clear skies prevail, stargazers will be treated to the last total eclipse visible from earth until Dec. 21, 2010.
“This is a prime time lunar eclipse,” said Richard P. Binzel, a professor of planetary sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s a chance to connect with the universe. A chance to look up and consider things other than our everyday earthly concerns.”
The moon will begin slipping into the earth’s shadow at 8:43 p.m. and will be completely immersed from 10:00 to 10:52 p.m. The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies that should dissipate as the eclipse proceeds.
“It’s not going to be totally clear, but there will be more stars visible than clouds,” said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton.
As it slips into the darkness, the moon will change colors that can range from a dull gray to a brilliant copper-red with a bright blue rim. While the earth blocks direct rays from the sun, the atmosphere refracts some of the light into the shadow.
“It’s like the color of all the earth's sunrises and sunsets combined,” Binzel said.
The varying colors depend on how much of the light is absorbed by clouds, dust, and moisture in the atmosphere. The hues are measured on the 5-point Danjon scale, which is named for the French astronomer, André-Louis Danjon.
During the eclipse, Saturn and the star Regulus will be visible on either side of the moon. Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation Leo.
Weather permitting, the eclipse should be easily visible to the naked eye, even through the glare of city lights. For a closer look, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge will have four telescopes on the roof for a public viewing. The center, which is located at 60 Garden St, about one-half mile north of Harvard Square, can be reached at 617-495-7461.
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