Attention: Total Lunar Eclipse Tonight

By Alexis C. Madrigal

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Hello, hello. (Squelch! Tap-tap.). Ahem, this is an Atlantic Technology Channel Public Service Announcement.

Tonight, our local satellite, the moon, will experience a full lunar eclipse. It begins at 1:33 a.m. Eastern, followed by the onset of totality at 2:41 a.m., and the good folks at NASA say the best moment for viewing is 3:17 a.m. The eclipse will be visible across all North America.

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Photos from the Eclipse

Now, a lunar eclipse doesn't look like a solar eclipse. Don't expect a sharply defined perfect circle to completely blot out the face of the moon. Instead, when the Earth cuts in front of the path between the sun and the Moon, the moon takes on variety of red tones. Here's how NASA explains the rouging:

A quick trip to the Moon provides the answer: Imagine yourself standing on a dusty lunar plain looking up at the sky. Overhead hangs Earth, nightside down, completely hiding the sun behind it. The eclipse is underway. You might expect Earth seen in this way to be utterly dark, but it's not. The rim of the planet is on fire! As you scan your eye around Earth's circumference, you're seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once. This incredible light beams into the heart of Earth's shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the Moon into a great red orb.

If you take any great photos of the eclipse, though, we want to see them. This concludes your Atlantic Technology Channel PSA.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/12/attention-total-lunar-eclipse-tonight/68285/