2011's lunar and solar eclipses
In 2011, people saw a number of stunning solar and lunar eclipses around the world. In early January, the Middle East and much of Europe were treated to a partial solar eclipse. For Switzerland, the eclipse was the fullest since 1999.
In June, much of the world saw the first total lunar eclipse of the year. Lasting for 100 minutes, it was the longest in almost 11 years. Although it couldn't be viewed from North America, it was broadcast online for those who couldn't see it.
In early December, North America was able to view a total lunar eclipse. The eclipse lasted for about 51 minutes and was the last total lunar eclipse that will occur for three years. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth and moon are perfectly aligned, with the Earth in the middle.
Lunar Eclipse: A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes behind the Earth so that the Earth blocks the Sun's rays from striking the Moon. This can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle.
Solar Eclipse: As seen from the Earth, a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, and the Moon fully or partially blocks the Sun. This can happen only during a new moon, when the Sun and the Moon are in conjunction as seen from Earth. In a total eclipse, the disk of the Sun is fully obscured by the Moon.
Check out the photos below from 2011's lunar and solar eclipses
Detailed View of a Solar Eclipse Corona
Credit & Copyright: Miloslav Druckmüller , Martin Dietzel, Peter Aniol, Vojtech RušinOnly in the fleeting darkness of a total solar eclipse is the light of the solar corona easily visible. Normally overwhelmed by the bright solar disk, the expansive corona, the sun's outer atmosphere, is an alluring sight. But the subtle details and extreme ranges in the corona's brightness, although discernible to the eye, are notoriously difficult to photograph. Pictured above, however, using multiple images and digital processing, is a detailed image of the Sun's corona taken during the 2008 August total solar eclipse from Mongolia. Clearly visible are intricate layers and glowing caustics of an ever changing mixture of hot gas and magnetic fields. Bright looping prominences appear pink just above the Sun's limb. The next total solar eclipse will be in July but will only be visible in a thin swath of Earth crossing the southern Pacific Ocean and South America.
Lightning Eclipse from the Planet of the Goats
Credit & Copyright: Chris KotsiopoulosThunderstorms almost spoiled this view of the spectacular June 15 total lunar eclipse. Instead, storm clouds parted for 10 minutes during the total eclipse phase and lightning bolts contributed to the dramatic sky. Captured with a 30 second exposure the scene also inspired what, in the 16 year history of Astronomy Picture of the Day, the editor considers may be the best title yet for a picture (title credit to Chris K.). Of course, the lightning reference clearly makes sense, and the shadow play of the dark lunar eclipse was widely viewed across planet Earth in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The picture itself, however, was shot from the Greek island of Ikaria at Pezi. That area is known as "the planet of the goats" because of the rough terrain and strange looking rocks.
Red Moon Rising
Image Credit & Copyright: Oshin ZakarianThis surreal, wintry scene is a composite picture recorded on December 10 as the Moon rose behind the Zagros Mountains of Iran. A total lunar eclipse was already in progress. The image combines nearly 500 successive frames taken over 1.5 hours beginning in twilight as the eclipsed Moon steadily climbed above the rugged landscape. The reddened lunar disk and deep blue twilight make for a striking contrast, yet the contrasting colors have the same root cause. The eclipsed Moon is red because the Earth's umbral shadow is suffused with a faint red light. The ruddy illumination is from all the reddened sunsets and sunrises, as seen from a lunar perspective. But the sunsets and sunrises are reddened because the Earth's atmosphere scatters blue light more strongly than red, creating the twilight sky's dim, blue glow.
Wonder and Mystery above the Very Large Telescopes
Credit: Yuri BeletskyWhat's that bright orange dot above the large telescope on the right? Even seasoned sky enthusiasts might ponder the origin of the orange orb seen by scrolling across this panoramic image, taken last December. Perhaps identifying known objects will help. To start, on the far left is a diagonal band of light known as zodiacal light, sunlight reflected off of dust orbiting in the inner Solar System. The bright white spot on the left, just above the horizon, is Venus, which also glows by reflected sunlight. Rising diagonally from the ground to the right of Venus is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy. In the image, the band, which usually stretches dramatically overhead, appears to arch above the elevated Chilean landscape. Under the Milky Way arch, toward the left, lie both the Large and Small Magellanic Cloud galaxies, while toward the right lies the constellation of Orion surrounded by the red ring of Barnard's Loop. On the ground, each of the four Very Large Telescopes is busy keeping an eye on the distant universe. The orange spot -- it's the Moon. The image was taken during a total lunar eclipse when the normally bright full moon turned into a faint orb tinted orange by the intervening Earth's atmosphere.
A Total Eclipse at the End of the World
Credit & Copyright: Fred BruenjesWould you go to the end of the world to see a total eclipse of the Sun? If you did, would you be surprised to find someone else there already? In 2003, the Sun, the Moon, Antarctica, and two photographers all lined up in Antarctica during an unusual total solar eclipse. Even given the extreme location, a group of enthusiastic eclipse chasers ventured near the bottom of the world to experience the surreal momentary disappearance of the Sun behind the Moon. One of the treasures collected was the above picture -- a composite of four separate images digitally combined to realistically simulate how the adaptive human eye saw the eclipse. As the image was taken, both the Moon and the Sun peaked together over an Antarctic ridge. In the sudden darkness, the magnificent corona of the Sun became visible around the Moon. Quite by accident, another photographer was caught in one of the images checking his video camera. Visible to his left are an equipment bag and a collapsible chair.
Image Credit & Copyright: Robert PölzlFor many Europeans, the Sun and New Moon rose together on January 4 in a partial solar eclipse. Arriving close on the heels of the new year, it was the first of a series of four(!) partial solar eclipses due in 2011. This composite image documents the graceful celestial event in colorful morning skies over Graz, Austria. Beginning before sunrise, frames were taken to record the position and progress of the eclipse every 15 minutes. As Sun and Moon rose above the eastern horizon, the town of Graz is seen bathed in warming sunlight only partially blocked by the New Moon, spreading beneath the town's landmark clock tower.
Warped Sky: Star Trails Panorama
Credit & Copyright: Peter WardWhat's happened to the sky? A time warp, of sorts, and a digital space warp too. The time warp occurs because this image captured in a single frame a four hour exposure of the night sky. As a result, prominent star trails are visible. The space warp occurs because the picture is actually a full 360 degree panorama, horizontally compressed to fit your browser. As the Earth rotated, stars appeared to circle both the South Celestial Pole, on the left, and the North Celestial Pole, just below the horizon on the right. The image captured the sky over Mudgee, New South Wales, Australia, including the domes of two large telescopes illuminated by red lighting. A horizontally unwarped image is visible by clicking on the image.
Easter Island Eclipse
Credit & Copyright: Stéphane GuisardMakemake, a god in Easter Island mythology, may have smiled for a moment as clouds parted long enough to reveal this glimpse of July 11's total solar eclipse to skygazers. In the foreground of the dramatic scene, the island's famous large, monolithic statues (Moai) share a beachside view of the shimmering solar corona and the darkened daytime sky. Other opportunities to see the total phase of this eclipse of the Sun were also hard to come by. Defined by the dark part of the Moon's shadow, the path of totality tracked eastward across the southern Pacific Ocean, only making significant landfall at Mangaia (Cook Islands) and Easter Island (Isla de Pascua), ending shortly after reaching southern Chile and Argentina. But a partial eclipse phase could be enjoyed over a broader region, including many southern Pacific islands and wide swath of South America
A Lunar Eclipse Over an Indian Peace Pagoda
Image Credit & Copyright: Chander DevgunOur Moon turned red last week. The reason was that during December 10, a total lunar eclipse occurred. The above digitally superimposed image mosaic captured the Moon many times during the eclipse, from before the Moon entered Earth's shadow until after the Moon exited. The image sequence was recorded over a Shanti Stupa Peace Pagota near the center of New Delhi, India. The red tint of the eclipsed Moon was created by sunlight first passing through the Earth's atmosphere, which preferentially scatters blue light (making the sky blue) but passes and refracts red light, before reflecting back off the Moon. Differing amounts of clouds and volcanic dust in the Earth's atmosphere make each lunar eclipse appear differently. The next total lunar eclipse will occur only in 2014.
Eclipsed Moon in the Morning
Image Credit & Copyright: Roger N. ClarkDecember's lunar eclipse graced early morning skies over the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, USA. There, this wintry scene finds the Moon in a cold blue twilight sky near the western horizon, above the snowy North American Continental Divide. About 22 minutes before the sunrise, the reddened lunar disk is almost completely immersed in Earth's dark shadow. This dramatic Rocky Mountain moon set during the eclipse total phase. But all parts of the geocentric celestial event were seen from Pacific regions, Asia, and Australia, including the entire 51 minutes of totality, and parts of the final eclipse of 2011 were shared in skies around much of planet Earth.
Image Credit & Copyright: Aleksandr YuferevSeen from central and northern Asia, the Sun and New Moon set together on January 4, in a partial solar eclipse. Close to its maximum phase, the eclipse is captured near the moment of sunset in this wintry scene from the bank of the Berd River near Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia. An evocative view in fading light, the picture looks toward the western horizon across a snowy, frozen landscape. Along with offset Sun and Moon, the dimly lit sky includes an industrial smoke plume and airplane contrail.