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, 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. Rich, KC

    It's starting to re-appear now, just beautiful 😀 Merry Christmas all

    December 21, 2010 at 4:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. David/Adele

    Wow beautiful I'm so glad God woke me up to experience this once in a lifetime event Awesome!!!!!!

    December 21, 2010 at 4:08 am | Report abuse |
  3. AARON

    You could see EVERY bit of the eclipse! DENVER's advantage of being up a mile high was definitely appreciated tonight. Clear, pristine skies and total clear vision of the eclipse. EPIC!!!

    December 21, 2010 at 4:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. Witchy-Poo

    Thanks to the heavy rain in LA County, I can't see anything. Blessed are those who get to enjoy it, as it is such an amazing celestial experience.

    December 21, 2010 at 4:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. Model Scott

    Hahaha; suckas! Can see clear as day in Denver, Colorado! Aye oh!

    December 21, 2010 at 4:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Rich, KC

      I guess it's God's way of saying "It's okay, I'm a Chiefs fan, and i know the Broncos are doing horrible, and i just feel so sorry for you, so here, u can watch the eclipse, it's the least i can do" LOL

      December 21, 2010 at 4:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      The Chefs finally have a good season and Chefs fans waste no time to trash talk...

      December 21, 2010 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. Model Scott

    Boom! Outta here!

    December 21, 2010 at 4:19 am | Report abuse |
  7. bobbo link

    This is a once in a lifetime event. beautiful in Okla. blood red moon! haters beware. ur time almost up! pray to whoever U believe in. May GOD bless n forgive U! ENJOY ECLIPSE !

    December 21, 2010 at 4:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. Diana

    HEY guys its really great of the Eclipse and all but did you guys know it can cause problems for your eyesight so better say indoors and have a Wonderful Christmas or Holidays for all you guys out there :]

    December 21, 2010 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
    • ADAMH

      I'm not sure how you have confused solar with lunar but differencces are night and day litteraly.

      December 21, 2010 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. mmi16

    Bravo! Good Job Mother Nature!

    December 21, 2010 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
  10. the incredble edible leg

    @diana that would be for a total SOLAR eclipse. not a lunar one.

    December 21, 2010 at 4:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. Theresa Rauch

    so so Cool I must say, Insomnia can be a good thing on nights like this. Just so Amazing how things like that happen it really is a Mystery to me. Congrat's to everyone who saw it tonight. I was very beautiful

    December 21, 2010 at 4:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. Scott

    Gorgeous view here in the Denver area...

    December 21, 2010 at 4:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. Richard Allen

    I suddenly want a navel orange.

    December 21, 2010 at 4:57 am | Report abuse |
  14. Lola

    What time can we see it in NM? Anyone know 🙂

    December 21, 2010 at 5:07 am | Report abuse |
    • jackson

      Show's over...

      December 21, 2010 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
  15. Yackob

    I certainly enjoyed taking pictures of this extraordinary scene in the cold.

    December 21, 2010 at 5:12 am | Report abuse |
    • jackson

      Nice, thanks for sharing!

      December 21, 2010 at 5:28 am | Report abuse |
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