Look, up in the sky; it's a rare lunar eclipse

The total lunar eclipse falls on the same day as the winter solstice, a rare cosmic event that hasn't occurred in centuries.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010; 6:13 PM

The moon offered a rare light show in the very early hours of Tuesday that was more spectacular than even the most elaborate holiday light displays.

A total eclipse of the moon occurred for 72 minutes starting at 2:40 a.m. Tuesday. A total eclipse occurs when the Earth casts its shadow on the full moon, blocking the sun's rays, which otherwise reflect off the moon's surface. The result was that an incredibly bright white moon slipped into shadow and cast a coppery-orange glow.

The eclipse was extra special because it happened on the winter solstice. The last time both happened on the same day was on Dec. 21, 1638, according to the Geoff Chester with the U.S. Naval Observatory. The solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the official start of the winter season.

The next time both will occur on the same day is Dec. 21, 2094. The next lunar eclipse will be in June but will not be visible in the Northern Hemisphere.


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