Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Winter Solstice and the Total Eclipse of the Moon

Did you see it? This morning between 1:30 and 5:00am if you looked up at the moon from anywhere in North America, you could see the various phases of a Total Lunar Eclipse happening high up in the night/very early morning sky. It was magical although exhausting.

A Lunar Eclipse happens when the Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon. The moon, which normally reflects the light of the sun, enters and exits the Earth's shadow as it revolves around us in the night sky blocking solar radiation and appearing darker. Contrarily to the Solar Eclipse, there is no danger in looking directly at the astronomical phenomenon. With the bases being laid, lets move on the the story.

Some of my friends (Hey Ladies!) were down visiting from Montreal and had a hotel room near Madison Square Garden. We hung out in the room watching a healthy mix of MTV and Discovery Channel - witnessing Teen Pregnancy, the struggle of youth with albinism and learning about Cleo, the Everglade Crocodile. We took turns on Moon Watch, monitoring the progression of the Lunar Eclipse through the window while others dozed. When the eclipse had reached 3/4, we bundled up and made our way onto the roof for a better view. Camera and clothing wise, we were poorly equipped. I snapped a couple picture with my faithful Sony Cyber-shot. It was fantastic! The great view of both the city and the moon was worth the long hours.

A lunar eclipse may not be a particularly rare occurence, on average you can see two a year. However, this one was special. In addition to being a Total Lunar Eclipse, it also happened on the Winter Solstice - the longest night of the year. This hasn't happened in 372 years Jeremy Olshan quoted Nasa saying in his New York Post article "Dark Side of the Moon for Gotham". 

Olshan also informed us that the moon would be high in the sky [check] and would glow and eerie brownish red because of the tons of dust released into the atmosphere by the volcanic irruption in Iceland that happened earlier on this year [check]. However, he told us to look out our window around 1:15am, but unless you had a telescope, you saw little difference until 1:30am - at least we were ready.

What's nice about a lunar eclipse, is that it lasts for hours from beginning to end and the totality phase lasts an hour. Knowing this, hubby, bestman and I said farewell to our friends at 3:00 and headed to the subway to watch the rest from the comfort of our own roof top. Public transportation being what it is in the early hours, we arrived at 4:40 and there was only a sliver left. Disappointment. Regardless, I had a great photo op walking home of the moon nearing the end peaking out from behind the church, a beautiful sight that my camera failed to capture adequately but one that I will keep in mind forever. I need a new camera Santa.

Take Care!

P.S. If you were waiting in anticipation for the post about reusable mugs, it will be up tomorrow at 8:00am.

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