By Benjamin Cost and Micah Sittig
Heads up astronomers, astrologists, and all manner of moonstruck folk! Providing the sky is not too obscured by a Shanghai drizzle, your best chance in ten years to witness a total lunar eclipse is this Saturday, December 10th.
The Zijinshan Astronomical Observatory in Nanjing predicts that the full moon will glow a radiant bronze as it passes through the Earth’s umbra (shadow), completely hidden from the sun.
The eclipse will last over three hours from when the Earth begins to obscure the Moon from the sun’s rays at 8:45pm Beijing time, until the trailing edge of the Moon leaves the shadow of the Earth at just past midnight.
The optimal viewing period will be 10:06-10:58pm, when the moon will be maximally obscured, lit only by red light that leaks through the Earth’s atmosphere.
In contrast to the solar eclipse of 2009, you won’t need to take any special viewing precautions; lunar eclipses are perfectly safe to observe with the naked eye. The only light you will be seeing is that reflected off the surface of the Moon, just like any other night that the Moon is in the sky. And Shanghai is as good a place as any to experience the eclipse, according to Executive Director of the Meteorological and Astronomical Association of Xiamen:
“The entire eclipse will be visible from almost any place in China, and Xiamen will also be in prime position to witness the moon treat.”
So grab a pair of binoculars and moon-beam yourself to an ideal vantage point to see this fleeting phenomenon, which is not expected to come again for at least another two years.
The Shanghai Astronomical Observatory in cooperation the Shanghai Centre of Science & Technology & Art Education, Xujiahui Bureau of Education and Tianping Sub-District Office, will be holding an astronomy festival at the northeast end of Xuhui Park on Saturday starting at 2pm and lasting through the end of the eclipse. Barring bad weather, Nanyang Model Junior High School and the Xuhui Youth Activity Center will organize activities, demonstrations, displays, and eclipse viewing with professional and amateur astronomers.