Total Lunar Eclipse - November 8, 2003

The public will soon be treated to the second of two total lunar eclipses in 2003 on Saturday, November 8. The eclipse begins at 6:32 p.m. (EST) and will be visible throughout all of North American. In the Charlottesville area, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), the University of Virginia Astronomy Department, Ivy Creek Foundation, and the Charlottesville Astronomical Society will host a free public observing session of the lunar eclipse at Ivy Creek Natural Area on Saturday, November 8.

Professor Ed Murphy of the UVA Astronomy Department will give an outdoor presentation about eclipses at 7:00 pm on site. As always, such optical observing sessions are weather dependent, and will not be held if the sky is completely cloudy or if it is precipitating. Dress for cooler night time conditions.

Like all lunar eclipses, this eclipse is safe to view even with a telescope. It is true that the full Moon is very bright and it will not help the dark adaptation of your eyes to view the full Moon through a telescope, but there is no threat of eye damage.

Interestingly, even during the total phase of the eclipse the Moon is usually visible, though very dim. This is because some sunlight, especially red light, if refracted by the Earth's atmosphere around the curve of the Earth and thus is still able to reach the Moon. Also unlike a solar eclipse, totality for a lunar eclipse lasts for only a brief time, with totality for this eclipse lasting over twenty minutes.

The eastern half of the United States gets a better view than the western half. The country's eastern third will see all eclipses phases, while the west coast will witness the Moon rising already in eclipse. In Charlottesville, the Moon will rise at 5:02 pm and the Sun will set at 5:08 pm.

The important stages of the eclipse are as follows:

Partial eclipse begins 6:32:21 pm EST

Total eclipse begins 8:06:07 pm EST

Greatest eclipse 8:18:23 pm EST

Total eclipse ends 8:30:38 pm EST

Partial eclipse ends 11:04:24 pm EST

For those who are out observing at the start of the eclipse, the Full Moon will have risen in the east just 1.5 hours before the start of the eclipse will be low in the east. At the same time Mars will be in the south-southeast. By the time the eclipse ends a little after 11:00 pm EST, the Moon will be nearly overhead with Saturn just rising in the east-northeast.

Modified on Thursday, 16-Oct-2003 11:11:16 EDT