Happy Winter Solstice and Full Lunar Eclipse!

Tonight is the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year and a time that has long been associated with the rebirth of the sun. This year’s celestial event will coincide with a full lunar eclipse for the first time in 372 years.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon completely passes behind the earth so that the earth blocks the sun’s rays from striking the moon. As a result the moon is cast in spectacular shades of red and orange.

The eclipse will start just after midnight, with the total eclipse occuring at 3:17 a.m., finishing at 5:30 a.m., when the moon reappears.

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission’s William D. McDowell Observatory is open to the public tonight for an up-close view of the astronomical happening.

The free program is open to all ages, and starts at 11:30 p.m. with an information session on eclipses. Visitors will have a chance to view the eclipse and the night sky through the Observatory’s state-of-the art 20-inch-diameter telescope. For more information, click here, or call 201-460-8300.

The William D. McDowell Observatory is located in DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst. Visitors to the Observatory must be able to climb 25 steps, and all children must be accompanied by an adult.

Anyone staying up to watch?

Photo from Wikipedia. Thanks to Baristanet reader Paul A. Zalewski for the cosmic head’s up.

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  1. Skipped this one. Caught the last one. But as I recall, it was 1638, which makes it only 372 years ago, not 456. (It was a Thursday, by the way, for those of you who might have watched “60 Minutes” Sunday night.)

  2. Given how clear it was, we got up to see it. Spectacular. I tried to get some pictures, but it turned into a comedy of errors as I managed to break my tripod and step on my reading glasses in the process. Oh well, when’s the next one again?

  3. The moon was still a dusky red as it was setting — close to 7:00 AM this morning — as I was going over Bradford into Cedar Grove.

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