All you budding Astrologers out there break out your shiny long telescopes and point them skywards this coming Monday night (20th December, 2010) in readiness for a full lunar eclipse, the likes of which hasn’t occurred since 1554 AD! Why so special? Well this eclipse just happens to coincide with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and a highly important event on countless spiritual calendars.
This unique combination, while likely to trigger stationery somersaults by some excited Wiccans etc, presents an event which is, “…quite rare, but there’s no profound significance.” said Robert Dick, an astronomy instructor at Carleton University, Ottawa.
Diving into the history books, however, you can find that the last such event, 456 years ago, just happened to mark a rather forgettable year for Tudor England. It was in 1554 AD that Princess Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and more gruesomely, Lady Jane Grey was beheaded for treason.
Tenuous historical links aside, if you’re interested in checking out the eclipse on Monday night (assuming the unlikely chance of clear skies), cast your gaze to the starry skies between 10:30pm and 2:30am (PST) on Monday night with the main event (total eclipse) set to occur at 11:40pm.
For those who really want to embrace the event, Vancouver’s GMS Observatory at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre will be hosting a viewing and interpretation session with activities, prizes and light refreshments. Admission is by donation.
For those of you playing at home, if you miss out on Monday night, there won’t be a total lunar eclipse as far north on the sky’s dome again, until December 21, 2485.
You snooze, you lose.
Well I was asking for some photo submissions from last night’s display since it was totally clouded over here in Vancouver, but I think I can go one better with this time-lapse video shot by William Castleman in Gainesville, Florida from 1:10 AM EST (6:10 GMT) to 5:03 AM EST (10:03 GMT). Wow!