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Clear skies over Thornton provide prime lunar eclipse viewing

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010 8:48am MDT
The total lunar eclipse as seen from Thornton.  See more images in the slideshow below. (ThorntonWeather.com)

The total lunar eclipse as seen from Thornton. See more images in the slideshow below. (ThorntonWeather.com)

Late yesterday afternoon the weather didn’t look like it would cooperate and allow viewing of the rare winter solstice lunar eclipse but in the end Mother Nature was generous.  Some thin, high clouds cast a bit of a ‘fog’ over the start of the event but those cleared and the view was extraordinary.

According to Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory, the last time a total lunar eclipse coincided with the winter solstice was on December 21, 1638.  That is the only other time since the birth of Christ that the conjunction of the two events occurred.  For those that live long enough, it won’t be a 372 year wait for the next one however.  Chester says December 21, 2094 affords the next chance.

From start to finish the event lasted about 3 1/2 hours with totality lasting a period of 72 minutes.  At its peak at 1:17am MST the moon was cast in a burnt orange color as the shadow of the Earth enveloped it.

Lunar eclipses unto themselves are not particularly rare events.  Two total lunar eclipses will occur in 2011, one in June and another in December.  North America sky watchers however will not be able to see the June event and only part of the December one.  The next total lunar eclipse visible in North America occurs on April 15, 2014.

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