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Monday, December 20, 2010

Rare winter solstice lunar eclipse visible tonight

Total lunar eclipse photo courtesy NASA

Clouds permitting, Rim Country residents and 1.5 billion viewers on four continents are in for a celestial show tonight as the Earth's shadow creeps across the moon's surface to create a full lunar eclipse.

During the 5+ hour eclipse, the moon will change color from burnt orange to brick red as it grows gradually darker.

The eclipse begins at 10:29 p.m., but the most dramatic changes will occur between 12:41 a.m. and 1:53 a.m. That's when the moon will appear the darkest.

No special equipment is needed to view the eclipse, but telescopes and binoculars will enhance the experience.

This is the first total lunar eclipse in three years and the first since 1638 to fall on the winter solstice. The next one that will be visible in this region will not occur until 2014, and the next one to fall on the winter solstice will be in 2094.

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