Post image for The 2010 total lunar eclipse proved to be a spectacle

The 2010 total lunar eclipse proved to be a spectacle

by Jorge Hernandez on December 21, 2010

In a rare event that hasn't graced our skies since 1638, the 2010 total lunar eclipse coincided with the winter solstice early Tuesday morning, prompting many North Americans to wake up at unseemly hours to witness the ghostly spectacle.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the Earth's shadow, which blocks the light of the Sun. The shadow of the earth can momentarily be seen on the moon's surface.

The moon first slipped into shadow at around 1:30 a.m. EST. The total eclipse occurred at about 2:41 a.m EST, and the whole spectacle went on until about 5 a.m. in the morning.

Lunar eclipses typically take on a coppery, orange hue, but Tuesday's eclipse had a slightly crimson cast to it due to the dust floating through the atmosphere from recent volcanic activity.

Meteorologist Joe Rao said on last week's Science Friday that the reason the moon turns red is because the sunlight is "strained through the Earth's atmosphere, and our atmosphere is going to act like a lens and bend that ruddy hue…onto the surface of the moon while it's immersed in the shadow," NPR.org reports.

For many, the simultaneous occurrence of the eclipse and the solstice signifies little but a fascinating coincidence. From an astrological standpoint, the event represents the opportunity to "step out of time. We are free of the past, and we can consciously create the future, for ourselves, for our communities, for the earth," prominent Wiccan Starhawk told the Washington Post.

The next time this double event is due to arrive won't be until December 21, 2094, the news source reports.

For those who missed the eclipse, a live video of the event can be found online at Manolith.com.

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