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New Mexico State University

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Lunar eclipse on Aug. 28

There will be a total eclipse of the moon early Tuesday morning, Aug. 28, which will last for about an hour and a half, said Kurt Anderson, professor of astronomy at New Mexico State University.

Anderson said no telescopes or binoculars will be needed to observe the event. Although the eclipse should be observable throughout the U.S., the clear southwestern skies of Las Cruces should provide an "eerily impressive show."

The eclipse will begin around 1:52 a.m., as the full moon enters the penumbral shadow of the Earth. Only a portion of the sun's light is blocked at this stage, and it will appear as a progressive dimming of the moon's brightness.

The moon will begin to enter the Earth's umbral shadow at 2:51 a.m., and observers will see a sharp edge of this darker shadow of the Earth begin to move across the face of the Moon, beginning on the northeast edge. The circular shape of the Earth's shadow observed during lunar eclipses was proof to Aristotle, and other ancient astronomers, that the Earth itself was a spherical object, Anderson said.

The eclipse will become total when the entire moon enters the umbral shadow of the Earth at 3:52 a.m. Totality will last to 5:22 a.m.

During totality, the moon will probably assume a reddish hue because of sunlight refracted by the Earth's atmosphere. Anderson said an observer on the moon during the eclipse would see the Earth as a dark disk completely obscuring the sun, but surrounded by a bright red ring of refracted sunlight.

Between 5:22 and 6:23 a.m., the moon will move out of the umbra shadow, and the penumbral part of the eclipse will end around 7:22 a.m. However, sunrise in Las Cruces will be around 6:39 a.m., and the moon will set around 6:48 a.m., so the final penumbral parts of the eclipse won't be observable.

For more information, contact the NMSU Astronomy Department at (505) 646-1032.