How high the moon: 2010′s total lunar eclipse

Posted Dec. 21, 2010, at 4:12 a.m.
A series of photos taken over an hour long period show the full moon as it is shadowed by the Earth as a total lunar eclipse marks the arrival of the winter solstice Tuesday, December 21, 2010 in Overland Park, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP | AP
A series of photos taken over an hour long period show the full moon as it is shadowed by the Earth as a total lunar eclipse marks the arrival of the winter solstice Tuesday, December 21, 2010 in Overland Park, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
The moon continues to emerge from a total Lunar Eclipse near Archer ,Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010 at 4:15 a.m. EST. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
AP | AP
The moon continues to emerge from a total Lunar Eclipse near Archer ,Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010 at 4:15 a.m. EST. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
The moon is shown at 2:04am EST during an eclipse seen near Gainesville Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010,  (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
AP | AP
The moon is shown at 2:04am EST during an eclipse seen near Gainesville Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010, (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
The moon is seen through supports for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between the Brooklyn and Staten Island boroughs of New York, during the lunar eclipse early Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. (AP Photo/David Boe)
AP | AP
The moon is seen through supports for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between the Brooklyn and Staten Island boroughs of New York, during the lunar eclipse early Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. (AP Photo/David Boe)

Though the weather in Maine prevented residents from seeing much of the event, sky gazers in North and Central America and a tiny sliver of South America could boast the best seats Tuesday morning to this year’s only total eclipse of the moon.

The eclipse began Monday night on the West Coast and during the wee hours Tuesday on the East Coast. Western Europe saw the start of the spectacle while western Asia caught the tail end.

The moon is normally illuminated by the sun. During a total lunar eclipse, the full moon passes through the shadow created by the Earth blocking the sun’s light. Some indirect sunlight will still manage to pierce through and give the moon a ghostly color.

Since the eclipse coincides with winter solstice, the moon appeared high in the sky — a boon for skywatchers. With recent volcanic eruptions around the globe dumping tons of dust into the atmosphere, scientists predicted the moon may appear darker than usual during the eclipse, glowing an eerie red or brown instead of the usual orange-yellow tinge.

“It’s perfectly placed so that all of North America can see it,” said eclipse expert Fred Espenak of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as the center prepared for the show.

The Griffith Observatory perched on the south slope of Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles was host to an eclipse party Monday evening although rain was forecast. Telescopes were set out on the lawn for the public and astronomers gave free lectures on the eclipse’s various stages.

To learn more about the eclipse, visit NASA’s eclipse page.

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