Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lunar Eclipse 2011 - Rare Lunar Eclipse Set to Scintillate Enthusiasts

Nepal will witness one of the darkest and longest total lunar eclipses of the century in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

The total duration of the eclipse, which happens to be the first of the year, will last for a whopping 101 minutes while the moon will be partially eaten up by the earth’s shadow for a longer period. “If the weather does not play foul, the celestial event starting 1:08 am NST will be visible from all parts of the country,” said Jayanta Acharya, the chairman of Astronepal. There is another total lunar eclipse later in the year on December 10.

Also an astronomer with Balmeeki Campus in Kathmandu, Acharya informed that the peek-a-boo between the two heavenly bodies will continue for three hours and 40 minutes with the moon entering the penumbral region of earth’s shadow in the southwestern skies at 00:08 am NST and leaving it at 3:48 am NST.

Though eclipses are but natural phenomenon, this one is rare as the moon will pass through the centre of the earth’s shadow for an unusually longer period, said Rishi Shah, an academician at Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), adding, “Thereby, making the eclipse one of the darkest.”

During the eclipse, the moon will appear to be colourful. “It may have reddish glow as a small fraction of sunlight gets filtered or refracted from the earth’s atmosphere and manage reach the moon to illuminate it,” Shah said.

The last lunar eclipse to exceed the totality of 100 minutes was in July 2000, according to the US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The longest total lunar eclipse of the century, which will be five to six minutes longer than this one, will befall on July 26, 2018.

Unlike a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse can be observed with the bare eyes, and amateur skygazers are preparing to organise star parties in Kathmandu.

In collaboration with the Park Village Resort, Astronepal is set to organise an observation programme at the Resort premises in Budhanilakantha.

Doomsday 2012, a documentary on the myths that the world will end in 2012, will be screened on Wednesday night before the eclipse starts after the day changes. Astronepal has already set up telescopes at the Resort for the observation, according to Acharya.

The entire event will be seen from the eastern half of Africa, the Middle East, central Asia and western Australia, according to NASA. Though Europe will miss the early stages of the eclipse because they occur before moonrise, totality will be seen throughout the continent except a few places. On the other hand, NASA said the eastern Asia, eastern Australia, and New Zealand will miss the last stages of eclipse because they occur after moonset. The eclipse will not be visible from North America. Source

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