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Lunar Eclipse Viewing Set For Oakland’s Chabot Center – Maybe

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The moon illuminated by refracted sunlight during a lunar eclipse. (NASA)

The moon illuminated by refracted sunlight during a lunar eclipse. (NASA)

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OAKLAND (BCN) – The Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland is hosting a viewing of the total lunar eclipse Monday night – and Bay Area residents are hoping clouds don’t obscure the rare event.

The National Weather Service is predicting overcast skies and rainy weather throughout the day, and forecaster Diana Henderson said it will be “a crapshoot” as to whether Bay Area residents will be able to see much of the eclipse.

Henderson said residents might be able to see part of the eclipse but warned, “I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.”

The Chabot Space and Science Center will open its doors from 9 p.m. Monday night until 2 a.m. Tuesday, rain or shine.

The eclipse can be viewed from its observatory deck and through its telescopes, weather permitting.

Chabot spokesman Robert Ade said that even if viewers can’t see the real eclipse, a simulated eclipse will be shown in the center’s planetarium while astronomers explain the event and take questions.

Ade said the simulation will be realistic, and pointed out that it will be warmer in the planetarium than it will be outside. In addition, there will be music with lunar themes, he said.

Chabot officials explained that a total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the earth’s shadow.

They say that the earth’s shadow will begin to fall on the full moon at 9:30 p.m. and “totality” will occur at 11:40 p.m., when the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon. Totality is expected to last until 12:53 a.m. Tuesday, and part of the earth’s shadow will remain on the moon until 2 a.m.

The moon will turn red due to the earth’s atmosphere, which refracts sunlight onto the moon’s surface, Chabot officials said.

Ben Burress, a staff astronomer at Chabot, said that unlike solar eclipses, which usually can only be seen in limited areas, lunar eclipses can be viewed by a great number of people over a vast swath of the globe.

Burress also said it’s completely safe to watch lunar eclipses without the need for special equipment.

Tickets for the “Midnight Delight” eclipse event viewing at Chabot cost $12 for the general public and $6 for Chabot members.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

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