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The eclipse has started

Kyle Hopkins

9:35 P.M. UPDATE

The eclipse of the moon has started with a shadow across the lower left edge. By 10 p.m. the Earth's shadow has covered almost half the moon's surface.

3 P.M. UPDATE:

Better news moon-watchers.

“The clouds are definitely thinning out, so I think we have a decent chance of seeing the lunar eclipse tonight,” said Andy Brown, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Anchorage.

But fog – which sometimes follows a wet snowfall – could still be a problem, he warned. “That also might limit how much we could see the sky.”

ORIGINAL STORY, 12:53 P.M.

Please clouds, don't steal the only total lunar eclipse of 2010.

An early Christmas present for stargazers, the eclipse begins in Alaska at about 9:30 p.m., when the moon will begin to visibly slide into the shadow of the earth.

By about 10:40 p.m., Alaskans should see a total eclipse, with the full moon turning red or orange.

If the weather doesn't spoil the fun, that is.

"It's not looking very hopeful right now here in Anchorage," National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Skow said this morning.

Forecasters expect mostly cloudy skies through tonight above the city, Skow said, "It's not ideal. There's a cloud deck hanging out between 5,000 and 7,000 feet."

Still, there's reason to be optimistic. The eclipse coincides with the winter solstice, which makes for a bright moon, high in the south sky that could be visible through cloud breaks or thin cloud cover.

"Basically if you can see the moon, you can see the eclipse. ... You don't have to be anywhere special," said Travis Rector, a professor for the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

The total eclipse will last until about midnight in Alaska, he said.

Outside of Anchorage, forecasters expect cloudy skies over much of the state tonight, said Charles Aldrich, a meteorologist for the Weather Service in Fairbanks.

"Over Fairbanks we should have some open areas. We're expecting it right now to be visible," he said.

There are two total lunar eclipses in 2011 -- in June and December. North America will miss the June show and witness only a part of the eclipse next December.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334.


By KYLE HOPKINS
khopkins@adn.com
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