Earth To Dance With Moon
- Tuesday, October 26, 2004
An eclipse of the Moon occurs when the Full Moon enters the shadow of the Earth. But this only happens during certain Full Moons. Most months, the Full Moon lies a little higher or lower than the Earth as compared to the Sun. So normally, the Sun's light shines fully onto the Moon's surface. But once in a while, the Full Moon lines up directly with the Earth and the Sun, and the Moon passes through the Earth's shadow. The Earth blocks the Sun's rays from falling on the Moon's surface, and the Moon grows dark for a time. This is a "Lunar Eclipse."
Safely Viewing an Eclipse
Contrary to some reports, it is completely safe to view a lunar eclipse with the unaided eye. The only danger from eclipse watching is in staring at an eclipse of the Sun. Special glasses are sold to allow an observer to safely look at the Sun's bright face. However, a lunar eclipse is simply a darkening of the face of the Moon. So viewing a lunar eclipse is even less dangerous than looking at the Full Moon (that is, not dangerous at all!)
This Week's Eclipse
In the Americas, this week's total eclipse of the Moon will begin in the evening of Wednesday, October 27. The eclipse begins when the Moon first enters the Earth's "penumbra," that is, the partial shadow of Earth. If you could be on the Moon looking at the Earth, the Sun would appear to be partially blocked by the Earth during the penumbral stage. As a result, the Moon will appear less bright in the sky, and may take on a yellowish color.
The Moon enters the Earth's penumbra at 0:05 Universal Time, which currently corresponds to 1:05 AM Greenwich Daylight Time. Observers in Europe and Africa will see the eclipse begin after Midnight, in their local time zones. In North America, the penumbral eclipse begins at 8:05 PM in the Eastern Time Zone of the USA, and 5:05 PM on the West Coast.
At 9:14 PM Eastern Time (2:14 AM Greenwich Time), the Moon will begin to the enter the Earth's "umbra," which is the full shadow of the Earth. The umbra is seen on the Moon's surface as the curved, dark edge of the Earth's shadow on the surface of the Moon. This is the stage of "partial eclipse." The partial eclipse stage will begin at 6:14 Pacific Time. So folks from California to British Columbia will see the Moon rising during eclipse, and will enjoy the entire event during the early evening.
As the umbral stage progresses, the dark edge of the Earth's shadow will grow larger over the Moon's surface. The Moon enters "total eclipse" when the Earth's shadow covers the entire surface of the Moon. Totality begins at 10:23 PM Eastern Time, or 7:23 PM on the West Coast. If anyone in Europe or Africa has insomnia, they can see totality begin at 3:23 AM Greenwich Time.
For this eclipse, totality is quite long, lasting one hour and 21 minutes. So everyone in Alaska and Hawaii should be able to see at least a portion of the total stage. Totality will end at 3:44 UT, which is 11:44 PM Eastern Time and 8:44 PM Pacific Time. Afterwards, the eclipse again enters the partial stage as the Earth's shadow withdraws for another hour and twelve minutes.
Lunar Eclipse -- The Sixth Seal?
During totality, it's not uncommon to see the Moon's face shine with a dull, rusty-colored light. This is the result of red sunlight, filtered through the Earth's atmosphere, and shining on the Moon's surface. If you could be on the Moon during a total eclipse, the Earth would appear as a dark circle blocking the Sun, surrounded by the bright red-orange ring of the Earth's atmosphere.
Often, this rusty color can be a deep red, not unlike the color of blood. For this reason, every time we have a lunar eclipse, there are always some who proclaim it as "a sign of the End Times." Scripture mentions similar occurrences in the Moon:
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