I’ve seen two total lunar eclipses. The first while in Grad school, the second on September 27. I tend to agree with the LawDog’s take on them. I’ve seen two total solar eclipses, one in the 1980s and one in the 1990s. I’ve also observed several comets, a plethora of meteors, and survived the Great Alignment of 1988 (and didn’t even get a tee-shirt). The two lunar eclipses certainly win the creepy, spooky, this-is-serious award.
The first one, I got up at 0 Dark Awful and drove out of town to a park/nature preserve that faced the right direction (east-south-east). Someone had helpfully left the gate open and I was able to park on the road facing the rising moon. The morning was not bad for August in the Midwest. A slight breeze kept the bugs away, and the park sat on a hill, well, more of a low rise, so I had a decent view. I fished my towel out of the back of the car and sat on the hood of the car.
The moon rose gold, then began shifting and dimming. A faint, tiny red dot appeared just a whisker above the horizon and I realized that I was seeing Mercury for the first time. Yeah, I was pretty happy. 🙂 By the time the moon got 10-15 degrees above the horizon, we had totality, and the dim, dark red disk barely stood out from the surrounding stars and the morning star. Mercury faded away long before the moon reappeared, and I considered the hour spent in the dark to be worthwhile.
This time, I didn’t have to go as far. Which was just as well since I had to be at work the next morning. I began walking all the way from the front door to the driveway around 2030 local time, or as soon as the moon got disentangled from the mutter mutter overgrown tree blocking the view. The gold faded to silver, then a chunk of the moon’s flank vanished. it didn’t turn red, but disappeared from view completely. The effect was probably an illusion caused by the bright reflection of the surface still out of the shadow, but it was creepy. Twenty minutes later the red had begun sweeping over the lunar face, leaving pale crescents at the top, then on the right (south) side. By 2115 the entire face of the moon had a deep reddish-brown cast with darker smudges across the top third of the moon’s face. A neighbor came over to watch. After totality (2147 CDT) I called it a night.
But no dragons. At least none on the news Monday morning, and none of the other teachers mentioned rumors of dragons. According to some myths, an eclipse is caused by dragons trying to eat the sun or moon. And according to the Internet, the fourth blood moon was supposed to interact with the Large Hadron Collider and open a tear in the space-time continuum and release dragons.
I’m still waiting.