Early Tuesday is the time for another eclipse of the moon

Path of the Moon through Earth's shadow during the total lunar eclipse. Photo: Fred Espenak/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Costa Ricans and expats will get a sky show just after midnight tonight when the earth’s shadow darkens the full moon.

Tuesday also happens to be the Winter Solstice. The solstice marks the time when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun, so the moon will be high in the sky, according to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration and its Goddard Space Flight Center.

However the total eclipse taking place on the solstice is coincidental, scientists say.

The eclipse begins Tuesday 33 minutes after midnight, according to NASA. Of course readers elsewhere will have to adjust to local time. Viewers in the western United States will see the eclipse start late tonight.

European readers will see the start of the eclipse but not the end because the moon will set from their perspective. Asian readers may see the end but not the beginning.
NASA points out that a lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth lines up directly between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun’s rays and casting a shadow on the moon. As the moon moves deeper and deeper into the Earth’s shadow, the moon changes color, turning from gray to an orange or deep shade of red.

The moon takes on this new color because indirect sunlight is still able to pass through Earth’s atmosphere and cast a glow on the moon, said NASA. Earth’s atmosphere filters out most of the blue colored light, leaving the red and orange hues that are seen during a lunar eclipse, the agency said.

NASA has set up a special Web site for the eclipse.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicts partly cloudy skies and wind for the Central Valley tonight with clear skies in the north Pacific. The rest of the country will see partly cloudy skies, the institute said.

Moon set is at 6 a.m., so the entire eclipse should be able to be observed here if the skies are clear.

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