Total Lunar Eclipse at Solstice December 21 This year’s winter solstice is a rare event, for it also features a total lunar eclipse—when the earth’s shadow passes over the moon. The lunar eclipse peaks between 3:17 and 3:53 a.m. The planetary dance starts at 12:27 a.m. and ends at 6:06 a.m., before the first solstice sunrise of 2010 on Tuesday, December 21, at 7:34 a.m. The best place to see it is the Thunder Hill Overlook, located at Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 290.3, weather and travel conditions permitting. Sunset that day occurs at 5:16 p.m. Solstice Simplified Astronomers calculate the sun’s annual midwinter dance as when the sun hits 23.5 degrees south of the celestial equator. This year it’s at 6:38 p.m. December 21—also when the sun enters the sign of Capricorn. The winter solstice of humans without calculators means those days when the sun seems to rise and set at the same southernmost points of earth during the shortest days of the year in the northern hemisphere before it starts “moving” north again. Solstice actually means “sun standing still.” Timing of December 21 Total Lunar Eclipse Over Eastern United States Event EST Start penumbral (P1) 12:27 a.m. Start umbral (U1) 1:32 a.m. Start total (U2) 2:40 a.m. Greatest Eclipse 3:17 a.m. End total (U3) 3:53 a.m. End umbral (U4) 5:02 a.m. End penumbral (P4) 6:06 a.m.