15 June 2011

Namibia: Full Lunar Eclipse Over Country Tonight

Sky gazers in Namibia are in for a celestial treat tonight when the moon will turn a rusty red during the first full lunar eclipse over southern skies this year.

Regarded as a rare total lunar eclipse for several reasons, the eclipse is also coinciding "very closely" with the winter solstice, an event that last took place in 1639.

Astronomer Robert Johnstone, head of the Space Observation Learning Centre in Namibia (SOLNA) says it is the "first lunar eclipse to coincide very closely with the winter solstice in 372 years".

He said the eclipse begins tonight at 18h00. The total lunar eclipse occurs at 12 minutes past nine tonight, and the lunar eclipse will be finished by 23h30.

The total eclipse, will transform the moon's glowing white surface into a deep red, rusty colour.

The June 15 lunar eclipse is causing excitement world- wide, and has been described by the Italian Astrofili Union (IAU) as being "without a doubt the most spectacular astronomical event of the year".

One of the aspects that is causing excitement, is the fact that this is a "central" eclipse, when the moon touches the centre of the earth's so-called shadow cone. Most lunar eclipses are partial, it is reported.

Johnstone said yesterday that this is an opportunity not to be missed, as a full lunar eclipse will only be glimpsed again from this part of the world on July 27, 2018, Johnstone said.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon, earth and the sun line up, with the earth in the middle. During the eclipse, the earth's shadow is cast onto the moon. The red colour of the moon results from sunlight hitting the surface, after they were redirected through the atmosphere, around the earth and onto the moon, which is blocked from direct sunlight.

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