The winter skies contain many of the jewels of the night. If you can, enjoy them. The big deal this month is the Total Lunar Eclipse on the morning of Dec. 21. We have not had a total eclipse since 2008, and there will be none visible here next year, so don’t miss it. The key timings for this eclipse for the Humble area are: Start of partial: 12:23 a.m. Start of total: 1:40 a.m. End of total: 2:53 a.m. End of partial: 4:01 a.m. The Administaff Observatory will be open to the public from midnight until dawn. We hope you will come join us. We will have telescopes, binoculars and cameras trained on the moon, and astronomers available to answer questions. If you are not able to join us, you can easily see the eclipse from your backyard. A Lunar Eclipse can be seen by anyone on Earth who can see the moon at the right times. The moon seldom turns black during an eclipse, but is usually a tint of red. Red light from the sun curves through the Earth’s atmosphere and lights up the moon, even during totality. Astronomers measure the darkness of the eclipse using the Danjon Scale: L = 0: Very dark eclipse. Moon is almost invisible, especially at mid-totality. L = 1: Dark Eclipse, gray or brownish in coloration. Details are distinguishable only with difficulty. L = 2: Deep red or rust-colored eclipse. Very dark central shadow with a white outer edge, relatively bright. L = 3: Brick-red eclipse. Shadow usually has a bright or yellow rim. L = 4: Very bright copper-red or orange eclipse. Shadow has a bluish, very bright rim. Astronomy Fast Fact: Eclipses happen twice a year at most. The moon’s orbit is inclined relative to the Earth’s orbit.  As we orbit around the sun, there are only two times when the sun, Earth, and the moon can all align to make an eclipse: December and June. Even at these times, we only see a total eclipse when the alignment is very close. Be sure to check out the bright constellation Orion. During the eclipse it will be halfway up from the horizon in the southwest. Look for the three bright stars in the belt. Orion is shaped somewhat like a large hourglass. We hope you will join us at the observatory or at our next public observing night. We are open the second Friday of every month. Our next event will be Jan. 14, 2011. The doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and we will observe from dark to 10 p.m. Bring friends. For more information, or to sign up for our e-mail distribution list, go to our website: www.humbleisd.net/observatory. The observatory is located next to Jack Fields Elementary in Humble. Please park in the parking lot in front of the school. – Dr. Aaron B. Clevenson Clevenson is the Lead Astronomer at Administaff Observatory in Humble ISD