There's a moon out tonight. Then in. Then out again. The last lunar eclipse until 2010 will be visible around these parts starting at about 8:30. NASA has a short video explaining what's happening and why -- the better to sound like you know what you're talking about when everyone's craning their necks skyward tonight. And if the sky is clear enough to see the eclipse, the moon will look orange. Really.
Here's how NASA describes what will happen:
During an eclipse the moon changes color, going from a light gray color to an orange or deep red shade. This is totality. The moon takes on this new color because indirect sunlight is still able to pass through the Earth's atmosphere and cast a glow on the moon.
The exact color that the moon appears depends on the amount of dust and clouds in the atmosphere. If there are extra particles in the atmosphere, from say a recent volcanic eruption, the moon will appear a darker shade of red.
The eclipse will be in totality for about 50 minutes, but the entire process will last about three hours. The whole show will be visible with the naked eye, but if you have a telescope or binoculars -- bonus. Through a telescope lens you'll be able to see the rings of Saturn as well as Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo. If you don't have your own telescope, The Schenectady Museum and Planetarium has a few you could try. It's open from 8 to 11 tonight for a special lunar eclipse event. You can view the eclipse through telescopes, ask questions of the staff and local astronomy groups, and catch a special planetarium show about the moon. It's free for museum members, $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for kids. If you're closer to Troy, R.P.I's Hirsch Observatory is also open for eclipse viewing.
Watch the weather though. If it's bad for viewing, both these events are off. So sacrifice a rubber chicken to the weather gods and keep looking up.
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