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Solar Eclipse December 2010

Solar Eclipse December 2010 - In the dark and very cold hours before dawn Tuesday, the brilliant full moon will slide into the long shadow the Earth casts into space, progressively dimming to what might become an eerie copper color.

It's a total lunar eclipse, the first visible anywhere since February 2008 and, if the weather cooperates, the last Marylanders will see until April 2014.

"There's something a bit magical about it," said Jim O'Leary, director of the Maryland Science Center's Davis Planetarium. "It's sort of the dance of the heavenly bodies. And to watch something we have absolutely no control over, we're fascinated by it, as people have been for centuries."

The eclipse will begin for Marylanders at 1:32 a.m., as the moon's sunlit disk begins to slide into the Earth's shadow. From the moon's lower left, the dark shadow will appear slowly to engulf the moon, finally swallowing it all at 2:41 a.m., as the eclipse becomes total.

Solar Eclipse December 2010

Mid-eclipse will be around 3:17 a.m., and the moon will begin to re-emerge from the shadow, beginning to brighten again at its upper left side, at 3:53 a.m. And at 5 a.m., it will be back in full sunlight, and the eclipse will be over.

Unlike a solar eclipse, lunar eclipses are perfectly safe to watch without eye protection. Binoculars or small telescopes might even enhance the experience of watching the Earth's shadow creep across the moon's craters and highlands.

The science center is planning to offer visitors — those willing to brave the cold and risk a sleepless night — a view from the center's Crosby Ramsey Memorial Observatory.

Solar Eclipse December 2010

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