For Immediate Release
Tonight Alaskans will see the full moon glowing an eerie red due to a total lunar eclipse. Earth's shadow will completely consume the moon 30 minutes after it rises. It will appear red until about 7:45 p.m. and will slowly begin to fade as it moves out of Earth's shadow. By 9:00 p.m. the moon will have passed completely through Earth's shadow and will return to its normal color.
So why will the moon glow red? Earth blocks all direct sunlight from the moon during a total lunar eclipse; however indirect sunlight is still able to bathe the moon after passing through Earth's atmosphere. This filtering process sieves most of the blue-colored-light and what remains is a red glow. The shade of red light illuminated on the moon is dependent on cloud cover and what may be floating in Earth's atmosphere.
Total lunar eclipses are safe to watch and don't require any special equipment. Nov. 9, 2003 was the last time a total lunar eclipse was visible in Alaska. The next total lunar eclipse visible in state will be in 2007.
Hans Nielsen, Professor of Physics, (907) 474-7414