March 3, 2007 Total Lunar Eclipse

On March 3, 2007, a total eclipse of the moon (total lunar eclipse) occurred. I went up on top of Mount Magazine (the highest point in Arkansas) to have a nice view of the moon when it rose. The moon was already out of totality when it rose but it still had a bit of the red tint. After spending about 30 minutes on Mount Magazine, I drove down to Cove Lake which is just down the mountain to the north to take a few more pictures.

So why does the moon turn reddish during a total lunar eclipse? During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth blocks the Sun's light from reaching the Moon. Astronauts on the Moon would then see the Earth eclipsing the Sun. (They would see a bright red ring around the Earth as they watched all the sunrises and sunsets happening simultaneousely around the world!) While the Moon remains completely within Earth's umbral shadow, indirect sunlight still manages to reach and illuminate it. However, this sunlight must first pass deep through the Earth's atmosphere which filters out most of the blue colored light. The remaining light is a deep red or orange in color and is much dimmer than pure white sunlight. Earth's atmosphere also bends or refracts some of this light so that a small fraction of it can reach and illuminate the Moon. If you aren't familiar with the specifics of what is happening in a total lunar eclipse - this website helps explain it.

Here is some additional data on the March 3, 2007 total lunar eclipse.

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