Washington Post staff
Tuesday, December 21, 2010; 8:27 AM
A lunar eclipse was viewable from North America early Tuesday morning. Melissa Bell set up the event thusly:
The moon will pass through the shadow of the Earth early Tuesday morning on the East Coast, turning it a deep reddish brown. Normally, the moon is illuminated by the sun, but the Earth will cut off that light source for a few hours, creating a ghostly moon apparition in the night sky.
The partial eclipse will begin at 1:33 a.m. Eastern, and the total eclipse will last between 2:41 a.m and 3:53 a.m. The partial eclipse will end at 5:01 a.m.
You can watch video of the full 2010 eclipse here.
Martin Weil and Debbi Wilgoren explain the significance of the event:
The total eclipse of the moon, which delighted skywatchers in the pre-dawn hours, will be followed later in the day by the arrival of the winter solstice.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth blocks the sun's rays from the face of the moon. The moon is then fully in the shadow cast in space by the Earth.
In a clear, cold sky over Washington, the full moon slowly slipped into shadow starting just after 1:30 a.m. People gathered at the Washington Monument, along the George Washington Parkway and at other prime viewing spots - or on their decks and in their backyards--to watch as its bright white glow gave way to a coppery, luminescent orange.
Scattered across the rest of the night sky, the stars appeared brighter than usual in contrast.
The last time the solstice coincided with a total lunar eclipse on the same calendar day was long before any of our lifetimes, experts say. The year, according to Geoff Chester, public affairs officer at the U.S. Naval Observatory, was 1638 (Starhawk, a prominent Wiccan, told The Washington Post in an essay that the two events have not coincided since 1544).