Monday, December 20, 2010

Solstice Lunar Eclipse

Barring cloudy weather, astronomy enthusiasts and sky gazers across North America will be treated to the only lunar eclipse of the year tonight. Unlike a solar eclipse, which can only be seen for a few moments from any specific spot, a lunar eclipse can be viewed for several hours and is safe to view without special glasses or equipment. If the sky is clear, experts say the show might be extra spectacular, as the moon will have a reddish glow, and just to add to the spectacle, a minor meteor shower is expected to send a few shooting stars through the darkened sky during the height of the eclipse.

According to NASA's notes on the eclipse, the total phase should last about three and a half hours when it begins as a partial eclipse at 1:33 a.m. ET and it will finish at 5:01 a.m. ET. The totality phase -- when the moon is entirely inside Earth's shadow -- will last approximately 72 minutes. This year's only lunar eclipse actually coincides with the winter solstice, meaning that the moon will appear high in the night sky, aiding visibility for revelers. The last time that we had a total lunar eclipse occur on the same calendar date as the winter solstice takes us back nearly four centuries, to Dec. 21, 1638, when the full moon was in total eclipse from 1:12 to 2:47 UT; the solstice occurred later in the day at 16:05 UT.

Astrologers and moon-based religions are paying attention to this once-in-several-lifetimes occurrence, as “a Lunar Eclipse affects us on a deep, emotional level, generally over the upcoming 6 -9 months. Pay attention to themes, people, and events that may enter your life a few weeks prior and during this time.  Remember to look back just about 19 years ago for similar themes.  What were they and how do those past events and themes relate to what's happening in your life now?” I even found a ritual posted for the event. The whole thing is sort of creepy when you think about it from the ancients' perspective: On the same day that the Sun Father symbolically "dies," the Moon Mother that should be at her full power is instead eclipsed and goes dark - in this case, for over an hour as seen in North America. What will you be introspecting?

For our part, the boys and I will be ceremonially lighting the tree, hanging ornaments, and wrapping presents, all with a laden table and baking confections. We spent this weekend in preparation for exactly these events, and we are looking forward to them, complete with getting up in the wee hours to watch the moon disappear. Well. As long as it's not too cold.