Monday, December 20, 2010

Goings On In The Sky

I've been seeing solstice blessings going around, so I thought I'd check to make sure I knew when the moment was before I jumped in. According to Infoplease, "The precise moment of the 2010 solstice will be Dec. 21, 2010, 6:38 PM EST (23:38 UT)." So it's actually tomorrow afternoon, but close enough.

Of course the other thing to watch for tonight is the lunar eclipse. Nat Geo is making a fuss over the fact it is the first to fall on the day of the solstice in 372 years. OregonLive has a nice article that gets the details for those who want to watch:
North and Central America should be able to view the entire show, which is expected to last 3 1/2 hours if skies are clear. Total eclipse begins at 11:41 p.m. PST Monday or 2:41 a.m. EST Tuesday. The totality phase -- when the moon is entirely inside Earth's shadow -- will last a little over an hour.
Also, according to that article, OMSI is hosting a viewing party from 9:30 PM to 1:00 AM on the OMSI plaza. So if you're in the Portland area, I'm sure they'll have interpreters to help explain what you're seeing and why for the curious. And of course Bad Astronomer Phil Plait has a good write up, with a spectacular photo montage and a diagram showing how the phenomenon works.

However, a couple of days ago I remarked to someone that here on the west side of the Cascades, we are pretty much exempt from astronomy from the late fall to the early spring. About the only astronomical activity we could expect to witness (other than a slight brightening in the morning) is a catastrophic meteorite impact, and we're not scheduled for one of those anytime soon, so far as I've been informed. Which is fine by me. According to NOAA/NWS our forecast for tonight is "A 50 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 33." Cold and dreary... I'll step out a few times to see what I can see, but I won't be spending any major portion of the night outdoors. The clouds thin and break often enough that I'll probably get to see glimpses, but unlike the August 2007 lunar eclipse, this one isn't all that promising.

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