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Monday, December 20, 2010

Total Eclipse May Be Eclipsed By Crap Weather

Posted By on Mon, Dec 20, 2010 at 11:59 AM

click to enlarge "There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark." - NASA

Science and religion make for an odious mixture. But tonight, legions of astronomers of the professional and amateur variety will be praying for clear skies to better see a total lunar eclipse.

Should their prayers not be answered, in the spirit of science, observers should record what manner of profanities are uttered by learned men and women denied their chance to view a celestial wonder.

"A lunar eclipse is very exciting," says San Francisco State astronomy professor Chris McCarthy. "It's unusual to see a total lunar eclipse. You may get to see one a year, if you're lucky." In San Francisco, that's a very big if.

While one has to travel to a specific, far-flung locale on the earth's surface to observe a total solar eclipse, anyone able to see the moon can enjoy tonight's total lunar eclipse.

Assuming a clear line of sight, McCarthy expects the effects of the eclipse to be noticeable by 10:30 p.m., when the moon's orbit begins to fall in the shadow of the earth. "That will cause a bite to be taken out of the moon that's bigger and bigger until it's totally eclipsed."

Here's what you may or may not see tonight - NASA
  • NASA
  • Here's what you may or may not see tonight
A total lunar eclipse occurs during the full moon phase when the moon is on the opposite side of the earth as the sun. Twice a year, the moon and earth's orbital planes match, leading to the eclipse.

When asked a good spot to view tonight's event, McCarthy says the sky's the limit. "Anyplace with a good view of the sky is fine," he says.

The astronomer is planning to take in the night's celestial goings on at Grand View Park. "Cross your fingers," he asks us.

We're praying for you, prof.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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