Nathaniel G. Fenton

Dr. Don Collins

C. Astronomy PHY-118

Oct. 30, 2003

November 8th’s Total Lunar Eclipse

Total lunar eclipses are possible only where the plane along which the Earth orbits, the ecliptic, and the Moon’s plane, inclined by five degrees to the ecliptic, intersect. Not only must the Moon be aligned, but it must also be in its full phase for an eclipse to occur, since it is then that it is on the shadow-side of the Earth. On November eighth, for twenty-four minutes, the Earth will totally eclipse the moon for the second time this year. (The last total eclipse came on May 15th.) This event will be visible from every continent except Australia. The Americas, Europe, Africa, and Western Asia will all see the Moon through its entire eclipse cycle.

The eclipse begins on the eighth at 5:15 p.m. EST with the Moon’s onset into the penumbral shadow of the Earth which prevents only a small fraction of light from reaching the lunar surface. This almost imperceptibly subtle transit will last until 6:32 p.m. when the Moon starts to enter the main shadow of our planet, or umbra, and the setting darkness of the partial eclipse becomes apparent to us. It is as the planet blocks nearly all direct light that the refracted light from our atmosphere will appear to lighten the shadow from black or gray and cast the Moon in browns, then coppers, reds, and oranges. The global air clarity and the path the Moon takes through the umbra will dictate the color and darkness of the eclipse.

By 8:06 p.m. the Moon will be completely within the umbral shadow, totally

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eclipsed, and traveling through the shadow’s southern half. The moment of greatest eclipse will occur at 8:18 p.m. when the northern surface becomes darkest, receiving the least amount of refracted light from our atmosphere.

Eight-thirty marks the end of the total eclipse, and the Moon will proceed from here through its partial eclipse until 10:04 p.m. when it will once more quietly pass through the penumbra. At 11:21 p.m., the Moon’s six-hour travel through our planet’s shadow ends.

Anyone interested in viewing the moon is encouraged to come to the area in front of the Garden Cabin at 7:45 p.m. where binoculars will be provided for a closer look at the event and photographs will be taken during totality. All present will see the night sky differently without the Moon’s reflected light. Faint stars and other distant stellar objects will be visible like at no other time during the year. The campus will not see another total lunar eclipse until October 28th, 2004.

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Works Cited

Berman, Bob. "Lunar Eclipses." Astronomy May 2003: 20.

Hermit Eclipse. Total Lunar Eclipse: November 9, 2003. 06 Sep. 2003. Hermit Eclipse.

25 Oct. 2003 <>.

NASA Eclipse Home Page. November 9, 2003. 26 Dec. 2002. NASA. 25 Oct. 2003 <>.

Universe Today. Total Lunar Eclipse: November 8-9, 2003. 22 Oct. 2003. Universe Today. 27 Oct. 2003 <