Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter is Here!

What better way to welcome the winter than being outside at midnight, bundled against the cold just to look at the moon?  Count me in.

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:

Eclipse Total de Luna podrá verse la madrugada de este martes en Perú [photo by josepcaireta]

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)

photo by Johnny Horne
The eclipsed moon glows in the predawn sky Tuesday morning December 21, 2010 in this view from Stedman, NC. This picture is a 10 second time exposure made through an amateur astronomer's 12 1/2 inch Telescope. (AP Photo- The Fayetteville Observer- Johnny Horne) -MAGS OUT NO SALES-

In other news… yesterday I had planned to go into town with Nicole first thing in the morning because I had some shopping to do, but my son had trouble sleeping because he was sad about missing his daddy and spending his first Christmas without his grandfather, so he slept with me… and neither of us slept well.  So we didn’t go first thing in the morning like I had planned, instead we left the house about 12:45.  Because I knew that my son wouldn’t enjoy the shopping I was going to do, we made our first stop at Game Stop and bought him a game to play while I was shopping.  It was great too!  He’d sit on the floor outside the dressing room so I could see his back and he would play and talk to me about the game while I was trying things on.  We’d been doing this for about an hour when he decided that his game was too difficult and wanted to go home.  I finally explained to him that we didn’t just go to town to go shopping, but that I had a surprise for him and we had to stay in town until the surprise was ready.  At that point I was done shopping, so we drove up to the campus and dropped off the books I checked out for my research project… and then went to Jack-in-the-Box to eat some egg rolls while we waited.  We were there for only a few minutes when I got the call that his surprise was ready.  So at 5:00 we got in the car towards his surprise.  He had been trying to guess what the surprise was ever since I told him there was one.  He never guessed.  But as soon as we reached the spot, he knew.  “We’re at daddy’s military place!”  We were going to pick up his daddy after 3 weeks apart.

Last night was such a special night.  Surprising my son by picking up his daddy… and seeing the Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse.  What a great day!

Edit: I take it back this is my favorite photo because of the detail (and because it's deceptive!).  Such a great shot!  And this is my desktop background now.

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