Monday, December 20, 2010

A Good Night for Insomnia

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice--the longest night and the shortest day. At 11:38 p.m. tomorrow, winter officially begins, and we begin the optimistic snail's pace struggle toward spring, as the days gradually get longer and the nights shorter. 

The Winter Solstice this year coincides with a full moon--something that only happens every three decades or so. Besides that, the Moon tonight reaches perigee--its closest point to the Earth. The last time these three phenomena--the Winter Solstice, a full moon, and perigee--happened at the same time was in 1866.

But in the wee hours of the morning, something even more remarkable is going to happen: a total lunar eclipse. According to NASA, this is the first time a lunar eclipse has coincided with the Winter Solstice since December 21, 1638, and it's not likely to happen again until 2094. 

The event is expected to take 3 hours and 38 minutes. It starts at 1:33 a.m. Eastern Time; totality begins at 2:41 a.m. and will last for 72 minutes. If you don't intend to spend the better part of the night staring up into the sky, NASA recommends that the best time to view the eclipse is 3:17 a.m.

And if all these spectacular lunar events weren't enough, an Ursids meteor shower is also expected to take place tonight.  


  1. 1638 - Wow, that was when Charles I was King of England, before he had his head chopped off and was followed by the Roundheads lead by Oliver Cromwell - a 20 year hiatus from the royalty before the Restauration when Charles II came back. I wonder if Charles I saw the lunar solstice eclipse before he lost his head.

  2. I set the alarm for 3am and went outside to witness the moon above a cloudy sky... it was still a moving experience.