There was a lunar eclipse overnight. Nice. Unusual. Not spectacular like a solar eclipse. If you’ve never seen one you should. I’m not sure it was worth being up in the middle-of-the-night if you’re normally sleeping at that hour.
In a lunar eclipse the Earth’s shadow covers the Moon. The Moon darkens and turns a deep orange. With no direct sunlight the Moon is only illuminated by light which has passed through our atmosphere and redirected toward it. Think sunrise or sunset.
Most of the local tweets I read complained about cloud cover. Darren Kramer planned on shooting a time lapse. He couldn’t even see the Moon!
Some folks were luckier. Here’s what my colleague Dr. Mel Goldstein saw when he woke up.
I moved into the bathroom, and watched the events unfold through the skylight over the shower which usually serves the purpose of just keeping things chilled, but this time, I was able to shave and shower beneath a unique sight of watching the moon go through its phases, very quickly darkening as the shadow expanded from SE to NW across the surface. In an hour the moon’s surface completely vanished. I went outside to take a closer look, but the wind was harsh and at 3:20 am the moon was still completely covered, thanks in no small measure to the high clouds.
I have a problem with the hype this eclipse received. Here’s part of the write-up story from the Washington Post.
There are not many days like Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Take it from people who know: astronomers. There was maybe one day like this Tuesday in the past 2,000 years.
It’s not that there’s only been one lunar eclipse since the year 0¹, it’s that there’s only been one that’s taken place on the solstice.
Seriously, it’s like adding significance to the eclipse because you watched it while standing on one foot. An eclipse on this particular day is no different than any other total lunar eclipse. Sorry.
Blame the media for this one. We’re always looking for a new angle to sexy up a story and make the unusual even more distinctive.
There will be another total lunar eclipse in June 2011, though not visible in the United States. Most of the states will have a total eclipse in 2014. Connecticut’s next total lunar eclipse will be September 27, 2015 (Eclipses are listed in UTC/GMT so the ‘official’ date is September 28, 2015). Here’s the full list of upcoming eclipses.
¹ – I know. There was no year 0. Poetic license. Shoot me.