An amazing astronomical event takes place tonight, and you don't need a telescope to see it.
At about 8:45 p.m., the full moon will enter the deep shadow of the Earth. By 10 p.m., it will go into total eclipse, turning a red-orange, almost coppery color. It will remain that way for about an hour before moving out of eclipse.
A total lunar eclipse occurs in five distinct phases. It officially begins when the moon's leading edge enters the penumbra, or faint outer fringe, of the Earth's shadow. When the moon's leading edge has progressed halfway across the penumbra, you start to see the first detectable smudging or dimming.
The second stage is partial eclipse, when the leading edge of the moon moves into the umbra, or inner part of the Earth's shadow. The shade appears to creep across the face of the moon until the third phase of total eclipse is achieved and the last portion of the moon has moved into the umbra. The final two phases of the eclipse reverse the first two as the moon moves out of the umbra and penumbra.
Why does the moon have a reddish glow during the eclipse? According to Sky & Telescope magazine, the color comes from all the sunrises and sunsets happening around the Earth at the time. Imagine being an astronaut standing on the moon and looking back toward your home planet — you'd see the sun blocked by a dark Earth rimmed with a glowing halo of light.
The next total lunar eclipse for the area won't happen until December 2010.
Anyone else on the lower East Coast going out to watch this start in the next 10 minutes?