June 13, 2011

First Total Lunar Eclipse Of 2011 Not Visible From U.S.

The first total lunar eclipse of the year will last an unusually long time, but will not be visible in the U.S.

The lunar eclipse will take place on Wednesday and will be visible from start to finish from eastern Africa, central Asia, the Middle East and western Australia, reports the Associated Press (AP).

The eclipse will last 1 hour and 40 minutes, which will be the longest lunar eclipse since July 2000.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon glides through the long shadow cast by the Earth and is blocked from the sunlight that illuminates it.

The disk will appear to gradually change color, turning from silver to orange or red.

It is difficult to predict the exact shade the moon will take because it depends on how much dust and clouds are in the atmosphere during the eclipse.

NASA eclipse expert Freed Espenak told AP reporter Alicia Chang that the total eclipse phase will be longer than usual because the moon will pass close to the center of the Earth's shadow.

Observers in Europe will miss the first part of the eclipse because it will occur before the moon rises.  Eastern Asia and eastern Australia will not catch the final stages.  Portions of South America will be able to see the eclipse as well.

The last total lunar eclipse visible from the U.S. occurred in December last year, which coincided with winter solstice. 

The next total lunar eclipse will fall on December 10, during which the moon will be blotted out for 51 minutes.

The U.S. will not be able to see another total lunar eclipse until April 15, 2014.