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Lunar eclipse coming tonight

Mon., Aug. 27, 2007

A total eclipse of the moon is possibly the most beautiful phenomenon in the night sky, and Tuesday’s eclipse should be no different.

The moon will slowly slip into the shadow of the Earth and take on a copper-colored glow as sunlight filters through the Earth’s atmosphere. The eclipse occurs as the moon passes from its last quarter to become a new moon.

As sublime as the moon will appear, you are going to have to be a night owl to enjoy it. The partial eclipse begins at 1:51 a.m. Totality arrives at 2:52 a.m. and lasts until 4:23 a.m. The second partial phase will continue until 5:24 a.m.

Astronomers already are speculating about how dark the moon will get compared with other lunar eclipses.

During the eclipse on Tuesday, the moon will pass near the center of the Earth’s relatively large shadow, causing it to become duller and darker during the middle point of the eclipse, according to Sky and Telescope Magazine.

The color of the moon during totality can be affected by storms and dust in the atmosphere along the outer edge of the Earth as seen from the moon.

A lunar eclipse last March 3, which was not visible from the western United States, gave the moon a fairly bright glow because the moon did not plunge as deeply into the shadow as it is going to do Tuesday, observers said. Prior to that, lunar eclipses occurred over the West on Oct. 28, 2004, and Nov. 9, 2003.

The next total lunar eclipse arrives Feb. 21 and will be visible from the Americas, Europe and Asia.

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