The image above courtesy of Anthony Ayiomamitis gives an idea of the treat in store for star-gazer tonight. In the wee morning hours a beautiful full moon will offer up a rare show in crystal winter skies as it sets gently wrapped in red and gold in the west: the 2011 lunar eclipse. Cosmic Log has a great rundown of times and the best geographic locations in the US:
The show begins with a faint penumbral dimming of the lunar surface at 6:33 a.m. ET Saturday, and reaches its climax at 9:06 a.m. ET with the start of totality. By then, of course, the sun will be up on the East Coast, but folks on the West Coast should be able to see the dark moon over the western horizon. This map from Sky & Telescope can tell you what to expect
In the middle of the country, beginning an hour or two before dawn, the moon will take on an eerie silver-red cast as it slips into the outer part of the earth’s shadow called the penumbra. With in an hour it will slide into the inner cone of totality, becoming brick-red, fainter and fainter, only to emerge within minutes back into the penumbra right as its setting. Residents on the same longitude as the Rockies and further west will see the setting moon burst from the reddish phase back into a large familiar orb perched on the horizon magnified by atmospheric physics, followed by a quickening dawn to the east. This is a fleetingly rare juxtaposition of moon, earth, and horizon. If the weather is good and especially in the Mid-west and west it’s worth getting up early to see.