I must confess that I am a bit of a lunatic. The word is borrowed from the Latin word lunaticus, which gains its stem from luna for moon, which in turn denotes the traditional link made in folklore between madness and the phases of the moon.
Ok., let me re-phrase that. I do not believe that I am mad (somebody better ask my wife for her verdict). I just happen to like the moon in its appearance and in its rhythm, and I am probably prone to some of its folkloric and symbolic connotations. So maybe I am a moon-atic.
Anyway, it’s Full Moon again, tomorrow, and a special one too, at least in some parts of this lovely planet. No, I am not talking about a Blue Moon for tomorrow. The next Blue Moon is not due until 31st December, 2009. Instead, tomorrow we can experience another Total Eclipse of the Moon. At least, if we live on the right side of this planet.
A total eclipse of the moon occurs during the early morning of tomorrow, Tuesday, 28th August, 2007. The total lunar eclipse, already the second one this year, will be visible in North and South America, especially in the West. People in the Pacific islands, eastern Asia, Australia and New Zealand will also be able to view it if the skies are clear.
An eclipse of the moon can only take place at Full Moon, and only if the moon passes through some portion of Earth’s shadow. The shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped parts, one nested inside the other. The outer shadow or penumbra is a zone where Earth blocks some (but not all) of the sun’s rays. In contrast, the inner shadow or umbra is a region where Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the moon.
People in Europe, Africa or the Middle East, who had the best view of the last total lunar eclipse in March 2007, won’t be able to see the one tomorrow because the moon will have set when the partial eclipse begins at 04h51 EDT. The full eclipse will begin an hour later at 05h52 EDT.
Since the Earth is bigger than the moon, the process of the Earth’s shadow taking a bigger and bigger bite out of the moon, totally eclipsing it before the shadow recedes, lasts for about 3 1/2 hours. The total eclipse phase lasts about 1 1/2 hours.
The next total lunar eclipse will occur next year, 21st February, 2008, and will be visible from the Americas, Europe and Asia.
I am more than slightly worried about a friend of ours, who gets totally affected every time there is a Full Moon. I just hope he does not get a Total Eclipse himself, tomorrow. Or tonight. Or all week.