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Lowell educators will share live views of the eclipse through the observatory’s 14-inch PlaneWave telescope and wide-view Vixen telescopes. The partial eclipse begins at 2:44 am PDT and the totality lasts from 4:11 am to 4:24 am PDT. Educators will also discuss the science of eclipses, the best ways to see them, Lowell’s story with the Moon and more.

Information, including a link to the event, can be found at https://lowell.edu/event/streaming-lunar-eclipse-live/?instance_id=1597

Background

Lunar eclipses only occur when the Moon is in full phase, while solar eclipses only occur when the Moon is new. A Full Moon occurs when it is opposite the Sun, with the Earth between the two bodies. Thus, when the Moon is full, it will rise on the eastern horizon while the Sun will set on the western horizon. The alignment of the three bodies is usually a bit off, but sometimes the three align just so that the Earth is in the path of the Sun and prevents its light from reaching the Moon. The result of the Moon passing through the Earth’s shadow is a darkening of the Moon, or lunar eclipse. The deeper the Moon sinks into the shadow, the larger the eclipse. If the entire surface of the Moon moves in shadow, a total lunar eclipse occurs.

During a lunar eclipse, the Earth’s shadow consists of two parts. The penumbra is the lightest outer part of the shadow and quite difficult to detect. The shadow is the darkest central part of the shadow. Its appearance – starting at 2:44 a.m. PDT on May 26 – is much larger and, for most people, indicates the true start of the eclipse. This shadow will grow larger and cross the Moon until 4:11 a.m. PDT, when the Moon will be completely in Earth’s shadow and therefore totally eclipsed. It will take approximately 14 minutes to complete, ending at 4:24 a.m. PDT. The Moon will then slowly brighten as the shadow continues to migrate. The Moon will still be partially eclipsed when it sets at 5:23 a.m. PDT.

Chinese observers apparently made the first written record of a lunar eclipse in 1136 BC. Most of the early explanations of the phenomenon were absurd in the light of modern science. Monsters and spirits of various forms were frequently blamed. Around 520 BC. AD, the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras revealed the true cause. For his problems, he was called an atheist and thrown in jail.

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