Dec 20, 2010

Into the Dark Night of the Solstice Eclipse

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

This year's winter solstice marks a rare astronomical event. It coincides with a full lunar eclipse. So it will be a long, dark night, indeed.

As many as 1.5 billion people worldwide will be able to watch when the Earth's shadow creeps across the moon's surface early Tuesday morning, the first time in hundreds of years that a lunar eclipse will fall on the winter solstice.

With the full moon high in the winter sky, the lunar eclipse will be visible from four continents, with the best views from North America and Central America if weather permits, scientists say.

. . .

Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years for NASA.

"Since Year 1, I can only find one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is 1638 DEC 21," Chester said, according to NASA. "Fortunately we won't have to wait 372 years for the next one ... that will be on 2094 DEC 21."

And here is a special warning from Wonkette:

Tonight will be very exciting for the fancy elitists in our country who can locate the night sky: For the first time in four centuries, a total lunar eclipse will also mark the Winter Solstice. Also, it’s a Full Moon! And there’s a meteor shower tonight, too! This combination of science and paganism is exactly what the Baby Jesus fears the most this time of year — and America can hardly afford to have its national religious-consumer holiday spoiled by potentially Islamic forces of Nature. As always in our fragile nation, the crucial thing is to not be distracted by what’s going on all around us, because the American Way is to instead create some unpleasant diversion until “the threat passes” or everyone currently alive is dead.

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