February 9, 2009: Year's First Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
Much of Asia, Australia, and parts of Western North America, witnessed the first penumbral lunar eclpise of 2009. Not quite as spectacular as a full lunar or partial lunar eclipse, a penumbral eclipse occurs when the earth passes in between the sun and the moon - but only such that the outer, lighter section of the earth's shadow, the penumbra, is cast upon the moon.
The Earth's outer shadow, called the penumbra, is not as dark. Monday's event is called a penumbral eclipse, because only this outer, partial shadow will fall on the moon.
Viewers of the eclipse in Asia and Australia witnessed a darkening of the moon, while Eastern North America missed out. Star gazers in Alaska and Hawaii, however, witnessed the event, provided they were up and about between the wee hours of 2:36 and 3:36 a.m. PST.
The eclipse will be visible just before dawn from western North America, as well as earlier in the morning in Hawaii and Australia. The moon will be near the western horizon, about to set. Only those with dark skies during the timing of the event will have a chance to see much, weather permitting.
The U.S. Naval Observatory has an eclipse calculator which allows users to accurately predict the occurrence of the next lunar event.
Some have commented on the coincidental occurrence of the eclipse and the wildfires which ravaged much of Australia recently.