This year, on 21st of December 2010, the Moon will rise in eclipse as visible from New Zealand. The total phase of this eclipse lasts for just over 72 minutes, with the partial umbral eclipse spanning almost 3.5 hours.
In northern parts of New Zealand to just south of Auckland, moonrise occurs just before the onset of totality, so all parts of the total stage of the eclipse are visible. Further south only the later parts of the total phase will be visible. More than half of the total eclipse is visible in all of the North Island and the top half of the South Island. At Timaru the Moon rises about 1 minute before the time of mid eclipse. Further south only the final stages of totality are visible; at Invercargill moonrise is just over 15 minutes before the end of the total part of the eclipse.
Some times of moon rise in New Zealand are:
N. Is. Auckland 8.35pm, Hastings 8.35pm, New Plymouth 8.45pm, Wellington 8.49pm.
S. Is. Nelson 8.56pm, Christchurch 9.07pm, Dunedin 9.25pm, Invercargill 9.36pm.
This is a poor eclipse for the southern hemisphere. It occurs with the Moon at is greatest northerly declination so at its lowest in southern skies and its occurs on the shortest night of the year.
All stages of the total eclipse of the Moon are visible from North America and the eastern Pacific. South America will see the earlier stages up to totality. On the other side of the Pacific, the start of the eclipse is before Moon rise in New Zealand.
Eclipses always fascinated people and observing them made people understand the Earth is round.
We have eclipses because the Earth gets in the way in between the Moon and the Sun.
Here is a great kiwi page on how the Moon looks like if photographed during a total eclipse http://www.possumobservatory.co.nz/astrogas/sky002-lunar_eclipse-2007-photos.htm, by one of New Zealand's leading astrophotographers, John Drummond, the Director of the Astrophotography Section of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand.
Lunar eclipses can only occur at full Moon. They don't happen every time we have a full Moon because the plane in which the Moon orbits the Earth is tilted five degrees to the plane that the Earth orbits the Sun (also called the Ecliptic). There is a periodicity in the eclipses timing and this is called the Saros cycle. Many ancient civilisations (for instance the Babylonians) built sanctuaries that respected the Saros cycle (18 years). In short, all the factors that make an eclipse happen now will repeat (with surprising accuracy!) exactly one Saros cycle from now and another eclipse (of very similar geometry) will happen then. This Saros cycle is the very powerful predictive tool that the Babylonians were so clever to discover.
The Chinese word for eclipse is chih, which means “to eat.”
We always use capital letter when we talk about our Moon (The Moon) to differentiate it from other natural satellites that other planets have, also called moons.
Clear skies for Tuesday night!
(Data about the eclipse timing and visibility throughout New Zealand was taken from the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand Website - www.rasnz.org.nz)
Photo of the final phase of the total lunar eclipse from 28 August 2007, photo credit John Drummond.