Special to Hawaii 24/7 by Gerrit van der Plas
Early risers get a good show Saturday, Dec. 10 as they will be able see the moon turn blood-red during a total lunar eclipse between 1:33 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. The real spectacle takes place between 4:06 a.m. and 4:57 a.m., when the moon is completely eclipsed.
Lunar eclipses have a rich role in history. According to Chinese folklore, a dragon ate the moon during a lunar eclipse, and Christopher Columbus used a lunar eclipse in 1504 to scare the Jamaicans into giving him and his men provisions.
Now we know better, of course: a lunar eclipse happens as the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow. This happens on average twice a year, but it is still a spectacle to watch.
The fact that the moon becomes red in stead of disappearing (it floats through Earth’s shadow) is caused by the same effect that turns sunsets red and the sky blue. It is called “Rayleigh scattering,” which describes the scattering of sunlight by very small particles.
For a more in depth explanation have a look at this lunar eclipse 101: www.lovebigisland.com/hawaii-b…
Where to watch the lunar eclipse on Hawaii
The lunar eclipse will be visible everywhere in the United States before and during sunrise Dec. 10. The moon will be already low on the western sky so the best place to watch would be any Hawaiian islands west coast.
The moon will be low on the western sky (between 28° and 17° above the horizon, hold out your arm straight in front of you and make a fist. One fist is about 10°) during the eclipse, so even if there is a mountain in the way, it might not be a bad thing.
Think about how a red moon above Mauna Kea will look!
If you cannot wait and already want to see what the lunar eclipse will look like you are in luck.
Check out this 3-minute video that shows how the lunar eclipse will look from Hilo.
You can also watch the eclipse live at events.slooh.com/
(Gerrit van der Plas is a frequent visitor to the Big Island and writes for www.lovebigisland.com, which promotes sustainable tourism and has a special focus on astronomical events on Hawaii.)