Sunday, March 04, 2007

Night Owls

Fascinated by the heavens from an early age, I never miss a chance to gaze skyward and awe in the magic of it all. Last night was another cracker! Despite BBC claiming a day filled with rain, the heavens only opened up for about 90 minutes in the early evening treating us Edinburgers to an atmospheric sunset and cold clear night. This is wonderful news to a stargazer, especially last night as it was the first total lunar eclipse of the year.

Unlike a solar eclipse, which I have yet to see, a lunar eclipse is easier on the eyes but just as awe-inspiring. Last night’s event was the first total eclipse of the year, and according to NASA, could be seen on almost all continents. Only Eastern Australia, New Zealand and Alaska missed out. (Then again, Aus and NZ are in the middle of summer. They can’t have everything now can they!)

By way of a cursory science lesson: As the moon circumnavigates our home, light from the Sun is reflected off its surface. During an eclipse, the Earth blocks the Sun’s light and the only light to reach the Moon’s surface is reflected from our atmosphere.

I suspect my back garden (Holyrood Park) is one of the few places in Edinburgh the eclipse could have been seen without much city light pollution. Bundled up tight, I took a cuppa, blanket, and camera to sit in the back garden. (Honestly don’t know why I took the camera, I was so cold and shivering only one shot turned out.)

-Lunar eclipse, Edinburgh, Scotland, 23.15, 03/03/2007

There aren’t a lot of words to describe the sight of our moon slowly being engulfed by the Earth’s ghostly shadow; eerie isn’t one of them. As the event reached its zenith, the Moon turned pale red with only a white halo around her edges. Scenes like these make me remember how small we really are in the cosmic sense and how elegantly our tiny galaxy occupies the sky.

If you missed last night’s event, never fear. If you’re in the US (or Aus/NZ) 28 August 2007; Western Europe 21 February 2008 offer the best bets.

For more information:

No comments: