Strangers in the night: Lunar eclipse, solstice meet again
December 20th, 2010
08:48 PM ET

Strangers in the night: Lunar eclipse, solstice meet again

It's not every lifetime that you get a chance to celebrate a solstice with a total eclipse of the moon.

Weather permitting, a lunar eclipse will be visible from 1:33 to 5:01 a.m. ET Tuesday, with the total eclipse starting at about 2:41 a.m., according to NASA.

The eclipse happens to be on the day of a solstice (first day of winter for the Northern Hemisphere; first day of summer for the Southern Hemisphere). The last time a lunar eclipse happened on a solstice was 372 years ago, in 1638, the U.S. Naval Observatory’s Geoff Chester told NASA.

Why is this significant, besides being so rare that it hasn't happened since Galileo was living out his days under house arrest? For eclipse watchers, it means "that the moon will appear very high in the night sky, as the solstice marks the time when Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun," according to NASA.

Scientists aren't the only ones interested in the confluence. To astrologers, Tuesday morning's package - the Northern Hemisphere's darkest day of the year, a full moon and a total lunar eclipse - is a doozie.

Share your video and images of the eclipse through iReport.

Florida astrologer Brian Hill says each event has a significant effect on people. A lunar eclipse alone, he says, disrupts vibrations from the moon, letting people’s intuition work more freely and allowing them “to receive information that the logical left brain normally doesn't get."

A full moon, the culmination of a cycle, portends endings, and a winter solstice gets people feeling an energy of withdrawal, in the manner that allows animals know it’s time to hibernate, he says. With Mercury also in retrograde, now is the time for reflection and introspection, he says.

"The four big planetary phenomenon at the same time tell us to slow down and see what’s going on," Hill said Monday. "Everything is saying, 'Slow down, we're moving way too fast, and really take a look at what we’re doing, where we’re going and what we want to do.' "

Another Florida astrologer, Bob Mulligan, told the News-Press of Fort Myers he also sees the solstice/eclipse confluence as a big deal: "With solstices, we traditionally mark the beginning of seasons as turning points. Full moons are times of great stress on the planet. A lunar eclipse is a full moon on steroids; symbolically, it’s a time of letting go of something from the past."

So, Mulligan told the News-Press, 2011 "will be a breath of relief, the death of one way of doing things and the very beginning of something brand new."

A lunar eclipse happens when the Earth lines up between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun’s rays and casting its shadow on the moon, NASA says, and eclipse watchers will be in for a colorful treat.

As the moon moves into Earth’s shadow, it appears to change color, turning from gray to orange to deep red. The new color stems from indirect sunlight that passes through Earth’s atmosphere and casts a glow on the moon, according to NASA. No special equipment is needed for viewing, unlike solar eclipses.

The Ursid meteor shower might also be in view Tuesday morning, thanks to the blocking of the moonlight, Space.com reported.

The eclipse will be visible from North America, Greenland and Iceland. Western Europe will see the beginning stages before moonset, while western Asia will get the later stages after moonrise. To find out the best viewing times outside of the Eastern Time Zone, check out NASA's page on the December 21 lunar eclipse.

Those who'd like to watch the eclipse indoors can check out NASA's live video web feed. Through that same link, you can access a live chat with Marshall Space Flight Center astronomer Mitzi Adams from midnight to 5 a.m. ET.

If you miss this lunar eclipse, you'll get your next shot at seeing one in the continental United States on April 15, 2014. But you have quite a while to wait for the next lunar eclipse on a solstice - that won't happen for another 84 years, Chester said.



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Filed under: Earth • Science • Space
soundoff (265 Responses)
  1. phil

    @rey...Karloff doesn't believe in the bible, so quoting verses to him is useless unless you are simply trying to drive him away.

    December 21, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  2. Nancy

    The Universe is like an open scientific laboratory with so many different processes going on all at the same time. It is amazing how the mathematical measurements between planets, etc. are so exacting. There had to be a highly intelligent Designer to have created such a magnificent wonder. The Universe is not solely the result of one huge explosion that happened a long time ago. There are too many variables and many facets that are not visible to the naked eye.
    I am sure that one day the Universe will reveal all its secrets and its purpose for all mankind or whoever else is out there. Everything has a time and place, and it is not for us to judge. There are many different religions who believe
    in God, but basically we are all in the same vehicle heading for the same destination. Remember in "Gods House
    There Are Many Mansions." "A Place Will Be Prepared for You." It can all be found in the scriptures in the Bible.
    Best Wishes to everyone for a safe and happy holiday & new year.

    December 21, 2010 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      "There had to be a highly intelligent Designer to have created such a magnificent wonder." Was it the same guy who invented diarrhea?

      December 23, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  3. Dismayed

    Why is CNN asking *astrologers* about the eclipse? Trying to compete with the Enquirer? A new welfare program for charlatans?

    December 21, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  4. Doug

    Right. "What astrologers say" Instead of Astonomers. People do want their "magic, mystery and authority." (Dostoevski) And the US lags behind the several nations in math and science.

    December 21, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. KevinNevada

    Dismayed: I second that – CNN have no business mingling a report that includes quotes from scientists with nonsense from "astrologers". This pandering to ignorance is becoming far too common in US news media, and happens too much on CNN.

    Editors of CNN: you really should be ashamed, if you are capable of it.

    As for the event itself, I missed it. Nevada is covered with a solid layer of clouds today, a series of Pineapple Express storms is soaking the West Coast this week. I'll just have to enjoy the pics – and ignore the ignorant portion of the text.

    December 21, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jparenti

    A good article overall - but what's with the astrology garbage thrown into the middle of the article??
    CNN, you are a news company. We don't expect this kind of delusional junk thrown in and allowed to stand as fact.

    December 21, 2010 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • some emo kid

      I thought the eclipse was caused by bad vibrations from Uranus when the moon is in the seventh horse and Jupiter aligns with Palin. Next let's get a guy who writes fortune cookie fortunes to explain the oil spill and then a palm reader can tell us what stocks to buy.

      December 23, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  7. Matt

    CNN NEWS FAIL. Astrologers? You interviewed astrologers? What's next? Interviewing leech-using witch doctors in your medical reporting? Same thing. You owe your viewership a retraction.

    December 21, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      Maybe we should stop reading CNN. This is disgusting.

      December 23, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jack

    Nothing to see from here Up-State N.Y. toom much clouds and snow.

    December 21, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. gamesmyway

    Truly looks amazing.

    December 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ROMA

    CHE FAVOLA STA LUNA CIAO DAL CT USA

    December 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ROMA

    w roma italia

    December 21, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Lola

    @phil sounds so nice. Maybe one day i will try to visit chair mountain. 🙂

    December 22, 2010 at 5:20 am | Report abuse |
  13. Name*Marsha

    I would like to know why there were several centuries between this eclipse and the last previous eclipse but there are only 84 years until the next such eclipse.

    December 22, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bubba

    Astrologers, really? Are we sure the moon wasn't being eaten by dragons? This article's dumber than pocket lint.

    December 23, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  15. Fedil Grogan

    It was a pretty cool event. Fortunately for me, it was pretty clear in Dallas for most of it. A friend and I sat on the roof of my apartment and took photos. It was pretty fun. Here are some of my shots: http://fedil.ukneeq.com/2010/12/21/total-eclipse-of-december-2010/

    February 11, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
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