Starting 4:51pm today, Shanghaiist will set aside his blogging, crane his neck out the window, look heavenwards, and try to feel connected to the universe and discover his cosmic purpose. (And we invite you to put aside all the mundane affairs of daily life and join us in this spiritual exercise, wherever you are.) For that, according to the Shanghai Observatory, is exactly when the first phase of tonight’s lunar eclipse will start. It is expected to last 3 hours and 33 minutes.
From Shanghai Daily:
The eclipse will begin as the Earth’s shadow moves across the surface of the moon’s eastern edge. It will take just over an hour for the earth’s shadow to cover the moon. By 6:37pm the moon will be completely hidden in the shadow and will begin emerging again at 7:23pm.
Many astronomers are predicting that during the eclipse, the moon could turn a vivid red color. The color will depend on the amount of dust in the earth’s atmosphere.
With the amount of dust perpetually hovering over this city, we expect to see the moon to turn scarlet red. Or we may not see the moon at all.
Here’s some cool astronomy trivia we bet you didn’t know!:
1. Mankind’s first record of an eclipse of the Sun was made in China in 2136 BC.
2. Zhengtong, a Ming Dynasty ruler of China from 1436-1449, had the Ancient Beijing Observatory built at the southeast corner of the old city wall. A 46-ft.-high platform held eight Qing Dynasty bronze astronomical instruments. Two were built in 1439 and six in 1673.
3. A “guest star” was seen by the Chinese in 1054. The supernova explosion was witnessed in the area of Earth’s sky where today we see an expanding gas cloud that we call Crab Nebula. The “guest star” was so bright it was visible in daylight.
4. Entering the 17th century, the Chinese thought they led the world in science — until visiting Jesuits demonstrated European astronomy including a clock that predicted the movements of stars. To test the clock, an eclipse of the Sun was predicted by both Chinese and European astronomers. The Chinese-predicted hour came and went with no eclipse. Meanwhile, Western science challenged Chinese superiority when the eclipse occured at the moment the Jesuits had predicted.
For those of you that can’t get outdoors for whatever reason, the Shanghai Observatory will webcast the eclipse live at www.astron.sh.cn from 6pm. Do not miss it! The next eclipse is not due until June 16, 2011.
Photo of lunar eclipse from Photogan.