Wednesday, September 30, 2015

YALE (no, not the University)

Yet Another Lunar Eclipse.

Usually I'm a bit more disinterested in Lunar Eclipses.  They come, they go.  The popular press and media makes a bit deal about it.  The Blood Moon Super Size Me Things Come in Threes Apocalypse.  Sigh.  And why am I so grumpy with the seemingly ever more popular characterization of "Blood Moon".   It doesn't look like blood.  It's orange.  Copper maybe.  Orange Moon or Copper Moon are much better descriptions with less drama/pseudo religious connotation.  Lunar Eclipse would be even better.  I cringe when I hear kids saying, "did you see the blood moon?"  I hope they actually understand what is happening - after all we have come a long ways in the last few thousand years.

The excitement at a "Super" lunar eclipse is also overbaked.  Last one until 2033!  Well sorry, the "Super" part is accounted by the moon being at perigee-syzygy (read closest approach in the moon's elliptical orbit).  This results in a colossal 14% or so increase in the size of the disk.  If only "Super" meant 14% bigger to McDonalds.  I'm pretty sure there is not a human on the planet than can say with any certainty that they can tell the moon is 14% bigger in apparent diameter.  So it goes.

The next full lunar eclipse around these parts (New Mexico) is in January 2018 so we've only a little more than 2 years to wait as long as you don't care about the "Super" part - which you can't see anyway.

OK rant off.  With all of the above out of the way ...

This one was real pretty.  Don't remember the last time I saw a lunar eclipse so close to the horizon. Makes for a bit more drama when you can see the eclipsed moon next to terrestrial features like mountains or cityscapes.

Eclipsed Moon over the Sandias and northern outskirts of Albuquerque NM, Sept 28, 2015
Note the traffic on I-25 streaking across the base of the Sandias.
This lunar eclipse was also a opportunity to connect with friends near and far.  Most notably with my astro-posse hanging out in the coastal hills of the San Francisco peninsula waiting pensively for a break in the clouds.  As we are an hour ahead I was able to send them updates and they in turn kept me updated on navigating crowds and clouds.  Fortunately they were rewarded with a break in the clouds with just a few minutes of totality remaining.

Clouds to the East also kept my Austin Texas pal waiting nervously.  With friends and family by his side they waited with little hope ... but towards the end of totality they did get a glimpse.  Nice thing about the eclipse is you can make what you want of it - nice excuse to get together - outside at night!

A friend in Los Gatos texted ... can't see a thing!  But I don't think they cared much as they dined on delicious food and the Raki flowed ....  People together, connecting, outside, at night.

New friends and neighbors were texting excitedly as they watched from their homes nearby.  My wife and oldest daughter joined me on the room of our patio.  We watched together as I took advantage of our clear skies and clicked off picture after picture with the camera on a tripod.

Pretty orange moon suspended in the inky dark punctuated with stars.
Mid eclipse through 200mm lens on a static tripod.
With anything much more than a 100mm lens you really need a tracking mount to get any kind of detail on the moon.  Exposure times much more than a quarter second will blur details - even with mild magnification.

I still think the best way to enjoy a lunar eclipse is in a comfy chair with no visual aids or cameras.  Just relaxing with friends and family, near or far, under the night sky.  So wonderful to begin to see stars appear and later, mid eclipse, the Milky Way.  It would be wonderful if the lunar orbit wasn't so inclined so we could enjoy a lunar eclipse every Full Moon.  If that were the case I wonder how it would have changed how the ancients viewed eclipses and if we would have stamped out the memes of evil portent long ago.

As it is we only have to wait until 2018 to do this again (at least here).  It will be another opportunity to get together with family and friends under the wonders of the night sky.  As long as that happens I guess I can live with another "Blood Moon".

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