Friday, December 9, 2011

Total Lunar Eclipse of December 10

Friday, December 9, 2011
The last eclipse of 2011 is a total lunar eclipse that takes place at the Moon's descending node in eastern Taurus, four days after apogee. 

The Moon's orbital trajectory takes it through the southern half of Earth's umbral shadow. Although the eclipse is not central, the total phase still lasts 51 minutes. The Moon's path through Earth's shadows as well as a map illustrating worldwide visibility of the event are shown in Fig BelowTotal Lunar Eclipse of December 10. The timings of the major eclipse phases are listed below.
Penumbral Eclipse Begins:   11:33:32 UT
   Partial Eclipse Begins:     12:45:42 UT
   Total Eclipse Begins:       14:06:16 UT
   Greatest Eclipse:           14:31:49 UT
   Total Eclipse Ends:         14:57:24 UT
   Partial Eclipse Ends:       16:17:58 UT
   Penumbral Eclipse Ends:     17:30:00 UT

Total Lunar Eclipse December 2011
At the instant of greatest eclipse (14:32 UT) the Moon lies at the zenith in the Pacific Ocean near Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. The umbral eclipse magnitude peaks at 1.1061 as the Moon's centre passes 21.4 arc-minutes south of the shadow axis. The Moon's northern limb is then 6.4 arc-minutes south of the shadows axis and 33.3 arc-minutes from the umbra's edge. In contrast, the Moon's southern limb lays 36.5 arc-minutes from the shadow centre and 3.2 arc-minutes from the southern edge of the umbra. Thus, the northern half of the Moon will appear much darker than the southern half because it lies deeper in the umbra.

Since the Moon samples a large range of umbral depths during totality, its appearance will change dramatically with time. It is difficult to predict the brightness distribution in the umbra, so observers are encouraged to estimate the Danjon value at different times during totality (see Danjon Scale of Lunar Eclipse Brightness). Note that it may also be necessary to assign different Danjon values to different portions of the Moon (i.e., north vs. south). 

During totality, the winter constellations are well placed for viewing so a number of bright stars can be used for magnitude comparisons. Aldebaran (mv = +0.87) is 9° to the southwest of the eclipsed Moon, while Betelgeuse (mv = +0.45) is 19° to the southeast, Pollux (mv = +1.16) is 37° east, and Capella (mv = +0.08) is 24° north. 

The entire event is visible from Asia and Australia. For North Americans, the eclipse is in progress as the Moon sets with western observers favored by a larger fraction of the eclipse before moonset. Observers throughout Europe and Africa will miss the early eclipse phases because they occur before moonrise. None of the eclipse can be seen from South America or Antarctica. The NASA JavaScript Lunar Eclipse Explorer is an interactive web page that can quickly calculate the altitude of the Moon during each phase of the eclipse from any geographic location:
Table 6 lists predicted umbral immersion and emersion times for 20 well-defined lunar craters. The timing of craters is useful in determining the atmospheric enlargement of Earth's shadow (see Crater Timings During Lunar Eclipses). 

The December 10 total lunar eclipse is the 23rd member of Saros 135, a series of 71 eclipses occurring in the following order: 9 penumbral, 10 partial, 23 total, 7 partial, and 22 penumbral lunar eclipses. Complete details for Saros 135 can be found at: 


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