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Host a Total Lunar Eclipse Party

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by Geraldine Massey (subscribe)
I'm an experienced corporate communicator and editor with an eye for interesting events and an attachment to my trusty Oxford dictionary.
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The Owl and the Pussycat may have "danced by the light of the moon", but I bet it wasn't a glowing, orange moon. On Saturday 10 December why not host a party to celebrate the Total Lunar Eclipse, and dance the night away with your very own Owl or Pussycat under a spectacular amber moon?

Lunar Eclipse - image courtesy of Mike Salway -

Apollo missions, space shuttles, even Sci-Fi movies have all made us a bit blasé about the wonders of space. We seem to think we've conquered that last frontier, especially it's nearest visible embodiment - the moon. But even the moon can still surprise us. We've already seen one Total Lunar Eclipse this year on 15 June. On December 10 from around midnight, depending on your time zone, cities in Australia, New Zealand and Asia will be perfectly placed to see what happens when the moon passes completely into the earth's shadow. And what a show it should be. Depending on the amount of volcanic ash and dust in the atmosphere the moon could glow red, orange, brown or yellow.

Theme and Decorations
Your party will obviously need a space / lunar theme. Get crafty and create your very own lunar landscape complete with craters made from papier mâché or cardboard and crumpled brown paper with a sprinkling of dust. Buy some of those glow-in-the-dark moon and stars stickers for your walls and ceilings and a bit of imagination could transform an old billy cart into a lunar roving vehicle (that's moon buggy for those of you without an astronomical bent).

If you want to go down the Fancy Dress track you'll be spoilt for choice. Astronauts and aliens should be the order of the day, especially given the timely release of Apollo 18.

Watch your favourite space movie - there's a whole constellation to choose from. Try Apollo 13 for drama, Alien for sheer terror or The Dish for a dose of nostalgia, or get totally spaced out with 2001: A Space Odyssey . Listen to Orson Welles' masterful 1938 radio production of H G Wells' "The War of the Worlds" - the one that sent people in the USA into the streets in panic at what they thought was a real alien invasion. You can find recordings on YouTube. Pin the Tail on the Comet will make a celestial variation on an old theme and a space inspired trivia quiz will keep your guests guessing. Do you know how many astronauts have actually set foot on the moon's surface?

The star of the show will of course be the eclipse itself. While the whole eclipse will take about 6 hours to complete, Totality - when the moon is completely in the Earth's shadow - will last for only fifty-one minutes. The excellent website Ice in Space, a site for Australian amateur astronomists, has a table with the times for each phase of the eclipse at a city near you, very helpfully set out in local times. You can view it here.

A lunar eclipse is safe to view with the naked eye. You can intensify the view and colours with binoculars, but a telescope isn't recommended because the lack of contrast makes it difficult to see features. Of course an eclipse is a photographer's dream, so set up your equipment and snap away to your heart's content. Ice in Space also has a handy photographer's guide here.

Eclipse diagram - image courtesy of Mike Salway

Don't miss this Total Lunar Eclipse. In Australia and New Zealand you won't be able to see another one in its entirety until April 4 2015. And don't make this a once in a blue (or should that be orange?) moon venture into the world of astronomy. There's always something interesting happening in the night sky.

And for those of you who really want to know - twelve astronauts have walked on the moon. It's a pretty exclusive club.
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Why? Because Even the Moon Can Still Surprise Us.
When: 10 - 11 December 2011.
Where: Anywhere in the world except South America, but the eclipse is best viewed in Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
Cost: Free
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