If you live in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa or Australia, you’re in luck – you get to witness the first of 2011’s two total lunar eclipses.
However, those of us who live in North and Central America won’t be as fortunate. We’ll either have to watch the video or read about the eclipse because it won’t be visible to us.
This total lunar eclipse, expected to be the longest-lasting one since July 2000, begins at approximately 1724 UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) on Wednesday, June 15 and ends about five hours later at 2300 UTC .
What makes this particular lunar eclipse noteworthy is that the totality of it – when sunlight to the moon is completely blocked by the Earth – will last 100 minutes.
A total lunar eclipse happens when a full moon passes behind the Earth and completely blocks the sun’s rays from reaching the moon. For this to happen, the sun, Earth and moon must be aligned exactly, or at least very closely, with the Earth placed between the sun and moon.
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft, orbiting about 31 miles above the lunar surface, will get a front-row seat to the total eclipse. A device on the LRO, the Diviner Lunar Radiometer, will record just how quickly different areas on the moon’s day side will cool off during the eclipse.
The second and last total lunar eclipse of 2011 is set to take place on December 10. It should be visible to all of Asia and Australia, will be seen as rising over eastern Europe and setting over northwest North America.
Want more of a background on lunar eclipses? Watch this video from NASA.