Starman says Israel has best seat for total lunar eclipse

Ira Machefsky, the 'Starman of Mitzpe Ramon,' says volcanic ash, Israel's geographic location make this lunar eclipse extra exciting.

By ELIEZER SHERMAN
June 15, 2011 20:15
2 minute read.
Lunar eclipse

Lunar Eclipse 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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A rare total lunar eclipse will occur Wednesday night in Israel's skies from a little after 8:00 p.m. local time until 2:00 a.m. early Thursday morning. Not only is this lunar blackout going to be one of the longest possible, but the astronomy blogger, Ira Machefsky, also known as the 'Starman of Mitzpe Ramon' told the Jerusalem Post additional surprises may be in store.

This particular lunar eclipse was already set to be prime viewing for Israeli astronomy fanatics. Machefsky, who has 40 years of astronomy experience, said that the length of time the moon will be in the earth's umbral (or total) shadow is going to be exceedingly long, clocking in at 100 minutes.

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The partial eclipse is set to begin on Wednesday at 8:22 p.m. local time, but the climax will occur when the full ecplise occurs between 10:22 p.m. and 12:02 a.m. Thursday morning. As the moon leaves the earth's shadow, a partial eclipse will follow until around 2:00 a.m.

The moon, according to Machefsky, will travel through the longest possible path of earth's shadow, crossing its diameter in near entirety. That diameter, 6,200 miles wide, is three times the moon's diameter, at 2,100 miles, making for an extended experience.

Machefsky explained that 100 minutes is pretty much about how long a lunar eclipse can actually be, with the longest at around 102 minutes.

Last time there was an eclipse this long was in 2000.

Machefsky told the Post that Israel is a prime spot to enjoy the lunar show because of the time of night the eclipse will occur in Israel's skies. It will also be visible from Africa, the Middle East and most of Asia.

The astronomy enthusiast said the phenomenon may be additionally exceptional Wednesday night, as it could be affected by the recent volcanic eruptions in both Eritrea and Chile.

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Machefsky said that volcanic ash can make the atmosphere more opaque, resulting in two possible situations: the eclipse could be darker because the atmosphere is heavily laden with the fine particles in volcanic ash, or it might make for some interesting color, similar to a sunset.

The Starman added that "you are seeing the sunset around the entire world at the time of the eclipse."

Heading off to a "Star Party" he was organizing, Machefsky added enthusiastically that despite these predictions, the eclipse remains unpredictable, and that the effects of the volcanoes will remain unknown until the earth's satellite begins its epic show Wednesday night.

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