Wednesday, February 20, 2008

All you create and all you destroy

Tonight is Shushan Purim Katan (15 Adar I), and as one might expect on the 15th day of the lunar month, that means it's the full moon. But this isn't just any full moon; once again there will be a total lunar eclipse! (But then not again for several years.) Don't miss it!

The eclipse will be seen at the same time everywhere on Earth (well, just in the half of Earth where it is nighttime, so that the moon is visible in the sky), but the time on the clock depends on your time zone.

The partial eclipse begins at 1:43 am Universal Time and ends at 5:09 am UT, and the total eclipse is from 3:01-3:51 am UT. In Eastern Standard Time, the partial eclipse is 8:43 pm - 12:09 am, and the total eclipse is 10:01-10:51 pm. And you can figure it out for your time zone.

Here in Israel, the partial eclipse will begin at 3:43 am, and the total eclipse is from 5:01-5:51 am, so we'll be able to catch the eclipse just before the moon sets at 6:19 am, 3 minutes after the sun rises. (You can see why, right? A lunar eclipse, by definition, means that the earth is directly in between the sun and the moon, which means that from our terrestrial point of view, the moon is directly opposite the sun, so we would see the moon set in the west at the same time we see the sun rising in the east. The only reason it's not exactly at the same time is because of the atmosphere's refraction of light, which makes the sun appear to rise just a little bit earlier.) So you can look for the setting moon in the western sky (even when it's totally eclipsed, it's not invisible), and watch the moon start to be reilluminated as it comes out of the total eclipse, and then as a bonus for waking up so early, you can turn around and watch the sunrise.

(The EIE kids totally lucked out -- I hear from a reliable source that tomorrow at sunrise is exactly when they're scheduled to climb Masada, so they'll be up anyway. They're in for a celestial surprise.)

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