Normally I shy from the cold, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to watch the first total lunar eclipse on the winter solstice since 1638! Let me tell you, it was fantastic.
Here is a photo of the eclipse as taken in Peru:
I was slightly concerned that we wouldn’t be able to see anything due to cloud cover, but by the time we went out at 11:45 the sky was clear and we had such a good view. After we got the telescope set up I woke up my son, bundled him up and brought him out to look. He was so sleepy that I had to put his sweatshirt and coat on him and help him get his boots on… he looked in the telescope, said “what the?” and then asked if he could go back inside because he was cold. I walked him inside the house and he walked down the hall to his room, stripped his coat and boots in the doorway and crawled back into bed. I should have gotten a picture of that! This morning when he woke me up I asked him if he remembered looking at the moon and he said “it was red” like he couldn’t believe that it was real, then he paused to take in the fact that the moon was red and said "but I was too cold."
I was slightly disappointed at not being able to capture my own photo, but I don’t know where my tripod is and my shutter stays open far too long at night to try to hold it steady on my own (I guess if I had thought about it I could have set the timer and set it on the ground). So… I’ll just enjoy the photos everyone else is going to post and remember that I was there, I saw it.
Here’s a little more information about how rare this occurrence was:
Coincidences (UPDATED): This lunar eclipse falls on the date of the northern winter solstice. How rare is that? Total lunar eclipses in northern winter are fairly common. There have been three of them in the past ten years alone. A lunar eclipse smack-dab on the date of the solstice, however, is unusual. Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years. "Since Year 1, I can only find one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is 1638 DEC 21," says Chester. "Fortunately we won't have to wait 372 years for the next one...that will be on 2094 DEC 21." (see the full article from the NASA website here)Here is another great article about the eclipse with links to a photo gallery and video. Here’s another great photo gallery.
And another photo (my favorite)