Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Total Eclipse of the Moon

Since I was a kid I have had somewhat of a passing interest in astronomy, and even though I don't look up at the night skies nearly as often as I ought to, I still enjoy watching celestial events when I think to do so.  My brother Andy and I used to have cheesy cardboard star maps when we were kids, and haplessly hold them high as we struggled to identify various constellations that managed to poke through the lights of Lincoln:  Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Orion...were fascinated at the big balls of gas burning brightly so far away even if we could barely distinguish one star (or planet) from the next.  It was fun, though, and one of the nice things about living in a small town now is that there's a whole lot more stars visible at night than when we lived in Minneapolis, and even if I couldn't for the life of me explain which planet is which or how to find the north star without some sort of sky map, I still enjoy casting an upward gaze in the wee hours.

And so last night I set my alarm for 2:30am in order to get up to see the lunar eclipse, even though I had heard reports that it might be too cloudy to see much.  This one was to be kind of noteworthy because it took place on the winter solstice, a confluence of events that has not happened in nearly 400 years.  Did that make either event any more noteworthy?  No, not really.  But it was a good excuse to drag myself out of bed and go snap some photos.  I snapped a couple 15-second exposures from our driveway near the edge of town, and then drove a couple miles east and set up the ol' tripod in order to get some better pics.  Our trusty point-n-shoot camera (with a humble 3x optical zoom) was ill suited to capture the magnificence of the event, but all in all the photos turned out rather well considering the circumstances.  I ended up with about 15 and only posted a couple here, and you can click each one for a full resolution version.

The belt of Orion is visible
on the lower-left corner of the picture.
(No magnification in this photo.)

Zoomed in as far as our little camera would go! :)
Just for funsies, a long-exposure shot of the horizon.
(it's a porch light, not the moon, btw)
I was probably out there for maybe 15 or 20 minutes, and by the time I got back home around 3am the shadow of our planet was creeping slowly away from the rim of the moon, making way for the full white brilliance to become visible once again.  I was a bit tired at work this morning, but I think it was worth it.  (If you're interested in some really cool pics, National Geographic has some excellent shots.)

Looking up at the sky, even for just a minute, is a really cool way to experience the wonder of the Lord's creation.  Even on a regular night you're liable to see some cool sights, and maybe even catch a glimpse of a meteorite, aurora, or just a cool-looking constellation too.  Even if you have no idea what it is you are actually looking at.  :)

1 comment:

Tom said...

Nice shots for your little camera. Thanks for taking some pictures and posting them. :) Also I enjoyed the title of your blog.