Not only will there be a total lunar eclipse tonight, but it’s also the Winter Solstice, and… the Ursids meteor shower is due tonight.
If you are on the US east coast, you’ll have to get up early to catch the show. While the partial eclipse starts at 1:33 am (ET), the total eclipse will begin at 2:41 am. It will last 72 minutes. On the west coast, the total eclipse will start at 11:41 pm on December 20th.
The Ursids meteor shower will go through the night, but viewing when the moon is full will make the shooting stars difficult to see. Viewing may improve during the total eclipse, with the potential of providing a dual lunar eclipse and Ursids meteor shower show.
Tonight’s lunar eclipse and meteor shower also coincide with the Winter Solstice, which occurs later in the day, December 21, at 6:38 pm (ET). As noted in a Sure-Start.com news story earlier today, a lunar eclipse has not occurred on the same day as the Winter Solstice since 1638.
The Ursids meteor shower is not so old, the first recorded observations were in the early 1900’s. The meteor shower is best seen from a dark location, and sightings can average 5 to 10 an hour, though bursts of up to 100 per hour have been reported. The meteor shower should continue through the night of December 23.