Rare Lunar Eclipse Expected Saturday Morning

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Wake up early Saturday morning if you want to catch a portion of a last full lunar eclipse until 2014.

The central U.S. will not see the entire eclipse, but you could see part of it if we clear out overnight. The eclipse will start at 4:45 a.m. PST and reach the full eclipse stage at 6:05 a.m. PST. The Pacific side of the earth will see the full eclipse from the west coast of the U.S. to Asia.

The timing of the eclipse, right before sunrise, gives viewers a rare opportunity to see both the sun and the moon at the same time, which in theory shouldn’t be possible. For most places in the United States and Canada, there will be a chance to observe an unusual effect, one that celestial geometry seems to dictate can’t happen. The little-used name for this effect is a “selenelion” (or “selenehelion”) and occurs when both the sun and the eclipsed moon can be seen at the same time. You can thank the earth’s curvature for that one!

During an eclipse the sun, earth and moon are in a straight line, so realistically you shouldn’t be able to see both the sun and moon. Due to the earth’s refraction though, it is possible. Atmospheric refraction causes astronomical objects to appear higher in the sky than they are in reality.

So make sure you set your alarm early and enjoy!

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