Los Angeles (AP) - 'Twill be nights before Christmas and high overhead, the moon will turn orange or maybe bright red. The Earth and the sun with celestial scripts will conspire to make a lunar eclipse.
Weather permitting, sky gazers in North and
The eclipse will happen Monday night on the West Coast and during the wee hours Tuesday on the East Coast.
The moon is normally illuminated by the sun. During a total lunar eclipse, the full moon passes through the shadow created by the Earth blocking the sun's light. Some indirect sunlight will still manage to pierce through and give the moon a ghostly color.
Since the eclipse coincides with winter solstice, the moon will appear high in the sky - a boon for skywatchers. While there have been recent volcanic eruptions, scientists on Monday said there's not enough dust in the atmosphere to dim the eclipse.
NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak of the Goddard Space Flight Center in
"It will be interesting to watch," he said.
"It's perfectly placed so that all of
The Griffith Observatory perched on the south slope of
If clouds or rain set in, the observatory plans to stream live video of the eclipse from the Internet. Among the various outfits that will show the eclipse live is NASA, which has a camera mounted at its Marshall Space Flight Center in
"Our event will go on rain or shine," said Griffith Observatory astronomer Anthony Cook.
Unlike solar eclipses which require protective glasses, lunar eclipses are safe to watch with the naked eye.
U.S. Naval Observatory spokesman Geoff Chester finds solar eclipses more exciting than the lunar counterpart. But solar eclipses tend to occur in remote parts of the world while lunar eclipses are usually visible from an entire hemisphere.
"If you get skunked by bad weather, all you have to do is wait a few years for the next one to come around,"
There are two total lunar eclipses in 2011 - in June and December.
AP Science Writer Malcolm Ritter in