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19 December 2010

Winter Solstice, full lunar eclipse: Rare celestial event coming soon to sky near you


Leroy Leonard is the most accomplished amateur astronomer I know, and he's also able to articulate astrophysics to help the rest of us grasp what he understands. Here, Leroy offers his insights to this Winter Solstice full lunar eclipse:

"Hey Colleen! Let’s see, lunar eclipses occur about twice a year. That means that, statistically, any given day in the year – including the winter solstice - has about a 1/182.5 chance of hosting one. OK, the average life expectancy for someone born in 2010 is 67 years. That is a tad over 1/3 the possibility of lunar eclipses on a given day in one year. So, this eclipse is about a once-in-three-life-times event. Another way to put it is to say, that if you want to see a lunar eclipse on the Winter Solstice, you’d better do it this time because, from a statistical stand point, you’d have to be reincarnated three times to have another shot at it! (Please don’t argue that the actual moment of solstice happens the several hours after the eclipse. I think this one counts.)
To help you not miss it, here is the schedule: Eclipse begins Monday Dec 20 at 11:32 p.m. MST Totality begins 12:40 a.m. MST Mid Eclipse 1:17 a.m. MST Totality ends 1:53 a.m. MST Eclipse ends 3:01 a.m. MST."

Thanks, Leroy. I'll set my alarm clock!
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