Predict Tonight’s Lunar Eclipse with Google Earth

Lunar Eclipse in Google EarthTonight there will be a total lunar eclipse. A great opportunity for those of you with new digital cameras to try your hand at some basic astrophotography (read some tips on photographing a lunar eclipse). For those in the American continents it should be well above the horizon when the eclipse occurs. Thanks to a some nice work by Michael Kosowsky of HeyWhatsThat.com, you can download a simple KML file that will let you use Google Earth Sky to view when and where tonight’s lunar eclipse will occur for your location. Fast, simple, and free! The KML file for Google Sky is simple to load , and it will automatically guess your location on the Earth by guessing the location of your IP address. Make sure you select the “Switch to Sky” mode when Google Earth prompts you. Double click on the “HeyWhat’s That.com” placemark to position your view on the moon. Based on your location, you will see the green lines of a “planisphere” which represents your horizon in Google Sky; cardinal points showing north, south, east, west; the positions of the moon and planets; and a special symbol representing the Earth’s shadow relative to the position of the moon. Not only that, but the time slider will be visible and you can drag the slider to determine precisely when the eclipse will occur. A full animation of the full sequence of the moon’s eclipse. Very cool! When the moon falls within the darker circle of the shadow, the moon is in the total eclipse (as shown in the screenshot). Look at the time below the slider to determine what time it will occur.
Note: if the KML file doesn’t properly guess your location (look at the lat/long coordinates shown in the KML that downloads), then use the Advanced Planisphere page at Michael’s site to set your position with a map, then select “February lunar eclipse” and hit “Submit”. You’ll get a new KML with the proper coordinates.
Michael also has developed a Google Maps mashup called Cosmic Visibility which uses the Sky data and shows the lunar eclipse with a browser. Click on the link on the left which says “February lunar eclipse” to see the event there. Great work Michael!
Related: Release of HeyWhatsThat planisphere for Google Sky

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was released. He worked in 3D graphics for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank left in 2009 to circumnavigate the earth by sailboat as part of the Tahina Expedition.



Comments

  1. I have two photos on my blog, here is the link.
    http://vuku.at/2008/surf/lunar-eclipse.html

  2. There’s a lot more to Moon watching than lunar eclipses. It’s a great object to start out on if you’re new to astronomy as it has a real “wow” factor and changes every night. Observing craters and other lunar features along the terminator provides the best opportunities. Software like LunarPhase Pro will introduce you to other lunar behaviour and teach you more about the Moon.

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