It hasn't happened since 1638!
This morning at about 2:30 am in the eastern US, residents were treated to a very rare event. A total lunar eclipse that coincides with the Winter Solstice. How often can you be a part of something that has not happened in more than 300 years ago and will not happen again until 2094! The combination of a total lunar eclipse and the Winter Solstice means that the moon is very high in the sky, and is easy to observe and photograph.
Skies were perfect over the Mid-Atlantic states (except for the ever present light from cities and towns). The weather was clear and cold, but a little windy. The moon started into the Earth's shadow around 1:30 am and was totally in the Earth's shadow by 2:41am. The totality phase lasted about 72 minutes and then the moon started emerging from the shadow. During the totality phase, the moon looks coppery or orangish, like the color you see at sunset and sunrise. That is because the light hitting the moon during the totality phase passes through our atmosphere, like the sun's light at sunrise and sunset.
The moon was full, casting moon shadows before the start of the eclipse. During the eclipse, the moon's light is dimmed considerably, and shadows darken or disappear, and the stars shine brighter. While lunar eclipses are safe to view without eye protection, they are more dramatic when viewed with binoculars or a small telescope.
Photo credit: R Greenway, ENN