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Lunar eclipse, winter solstice coincide

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It's a total eclipse--of the moon.

The moon will pass through the shadow of the earth in the wee hours of December 21, 2010, which is also the date of the winter solstice. Astronomers expect a full eclipse with the moon casting a reddish or amber glow and glistening off the snow covered areas of North America.

To celebrate, the Department of Physics and Astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, will host an viewing party and open house on Tuesday morning from 1 a.m. until 5 a.m. According to the Hopkins announcement, the open house will be at the Maryland Space Grant Observatory at the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy. Visitors are asked to check weather updates by calling 410-516-6525 before coming.

Statements from NASA report that the eclipse will commence at 1:33 a.m. EST on Dec. 21 and will last approximately 72 minutes. The height of the full eclipse, when the moon will be completely hidden by the earth's shadow, is expected to occur at about 3:17 a.m. EST. The entire moon will appear as a coppery red at that time.

The last recorded occurrence of a lunar eclipse happening on the winter solstice was 372 years ago, or on Dec. 21, 1638. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year when the earth's axis is tilted the farthest away from the sun. It is also the day regarded as the first official day of winter and is celebrated as a significant day among many of the world's religions.

How to photograph a disappearing moon

Johns Hopkins Department of Physics and Astronomy

Lunar eclipse report from NASA

NASA Lunar Eclipse Page

Winter Solstice

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