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Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Most Excellent Total Lunar Eclipse, June 15, 2011

A most excellent total eclipse of the moon will be visible in its entirety from Israel on the night of June 15, 2011 and early in the morning of June 16. It is well seen from most of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, but especially well seen from Israel. This is the first lunar eclipse in 2011.

The moon will rise a few hours from full at 8:04PM IDT on the night of Wednesday, June 15. Just 20 minutes later the penumbral phase of the eclipse begins, when the moon enters the penumbral shadow of the earth. This phase is actually difficult to see, since there is only a slight darkening to the moon until the partial phase begins at 9:22PM IDT. As this phase begins, the moon enters the umbral shadow of the earth, and observers should start to see a "notch" where the moon pases into the complete shadow of the earth. Totality begins at 10:22PM when all of the moon enters the earth's full, umbral shadow. At 11:12PM the moon will be as deeply into the earth's shadow as it will get at this eclipse and "greatest eclipse" begins, when the moon should reach its darkest. Totality ends just after midnight on Thursday, June 16, and the exit partial phase of the eclipse ends at 1:02AM IDT.

The circumstances of this total eclipse have the moon passing almost centrally through the earth's shadow, which should make this a very dark eclipse. You can estimate the darkness yourself using the Danjon Scale. Volcanic aerosals can affect the color and brightness of an eclipse, and since one of the Icelandic volcanoes just belched a large dust cloud into the atmosphere, this could be a very interesting eclipse indeed. Don't miss it. We will be having a special observing session here in Mitzpe Ramon. If you are in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by. More on this later.


Circumstances of the June 15, 2011 total lunar eclipse show the moon passing almost centrally through the earth's shadow. (Source: NASA)

The eclipse is well viewed by the naked eye, although any optical aid at all, from binoculars to even a small telescope, will show greater detail. A lunar eclipse, unlike a solar eclipse, can be viewed without any protection for your eyes. The moon is never bright enough to damage your vision, even through a large telescope. If you are going to watch the early stages of the eclipse, make sure to find a clear eastern horizon, since the moon will be low in the sky as the penumbral stage begins.

All times are for Jerusalem, Israel (Israel Daylight Time) but should be correct within a few minutes elsewhere in the country.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Moon Rise:                                         20:04     IDT
Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 20:24 IDT
Partial Eclipse Begins:    21:22 IDT
Total Eclipse Begins:      22:22 IDT
Greatest Eclipse:          23:12 IDT
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Total Eclipse Ends:        00:02 IDT
Partial Eclipse Ends:      01:02 IDT
Penumbral Eclipse Ends:    02:00 IDT

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