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Texting campaign surrounds lunar eclipse

JPL to celebrate Monday's celestial event with social media experiment.

December 18, 2010|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
(NASA/JPL )

Science, like many things in life, can be more fun when you share it with others.

With that in mind, JPL has launched a new Internet and text message campaign to help those viewing Monday night's lunar eclipse share the experience with the world.

Barring cloudy skies, the first total eclipse of the moon in three years will be visible throughout North America from about 11:40 p.m. Monday through just before 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Those who go out for a look can use their cell phones' texting and Internet functions to find out what others are making of the experience through JPL's "I'm there: lunar eclipse campaign," which allows sky gazers to become part of in an interactive map and live comment feed at a special lunar eclipse web page.

Text "IMTHERE" to 67463 and you'll receive a reminder to view the eclipse on Monday. After arriving at your viewing spot, text back your Zip Code and JPL will pinpoint that location on that web page's digital map.

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The site will also feature comments received about the eclipse via text and tweet as well as links to astronomy resources and instructions for uploading photos of the eclipse to a special Flickr group.

"We thought this would be fun to do and we can't wait to see how it's going to go," said Jon Nelson, JPL's manager of online publishing, who's heading up the project. "We hope everybody can come out and take a look at the lunar eclipse with JPL and join the conversation."

If all goes well Monday, JPL may also employ social media campaigns for other celestial events, said Nelson.

Gearing up for the eclipse, the JPL Blog features a discussion of future moon explorations by Sami Asmar, a scientist working on a lunar observation project that launches next year, and on Monday will post a information about how lunar volcanoes and dust can affect what colors we see during an eclipse.

During the eclipse, the moon takes on a deep red color because it is visible only by light that is refracting off Earth's atmosphere, said Asmar.

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