EYES TO THE SKY February 5 – 18, 2018

Look again! Super blue moon eclipse reverie

The art of the Blue Moon partial eclipse at 6:52 a.m. in Wayne, NJ, January 31, 2018 Photo: Peter A. BlacksbergThe art of the Blue Moon partial eclipse at 6:52 a.m. in Wayne, NJ, January 31, 2018 Photo: Peter A. Blacksberg
Moonlight had streamed in the windows all night, at times brilliant, from a clear sky, then muted through haze or clouds and falling snow in the Berkshire countryside. It was the eve of the Super Blue Moon Eclipse. I was looking forward to going out at dawn to see the eclipse of the second full moon of the month, but when last Wednesday morning, January 31 arrived, I wrestled with sleep to get out of bed at 5:45am. Once up, while I pulled on my woodswoman garb in the dark, friends across the country, I would later learn, were rising before dawn and themselves moving into position to view the once-in-a-150-year event.
 

Debbie, in Santa Rosa, California, met a small group of colleagues at 4am Pacific Standard Time on a prominence leveled by the recent fires. They witnessed totality.

Moonset, partial lunar eclipse, 7:04am, January 31, 2018, Ringwood, New Jersey. Photo: Ron Baer

Ron, in New Jersey, rolled out of bed close to 7am Eastern Time, drove around the block to a schoolyard and met the blazing, golden orb, its top in shadow, pictured here.

Partial eclipse of setting moon captured over a ten-minute period around 7 a.m. January 31, 2018 in Wayne, NJ. Sequence assembled in photoshop; not intended to be scientifically accurate with respect to color. Photo: Peter A. Blacksberg

Peter, also in New Jersey, drove to the hilltop above his house, rolled down his car window and captured the stages of moonset on camera.  
 
In the Berkshires, opening the cabin door to a frigid 8 degrees at 6am, the sparkle of red star Arcturus above a hemlock grove turned my head to the south. No stars were visible through clouds at zenith as I walked in the snow-blanketed, hilly landscape to the best view to the west-northwest that I could reach on foot, half a mile from my location: I found the sky overcast. I had 20 minutes to explore further afield before the eclipse would begin. I walked back, to my car, and drove a few miles to another, perhaps better view. There, the moon was suspended in a clear sky, but my optimism soon vanished as a thick band of clouds appeared in the moon’s path at about the time the eclipse was predicted to become noticeable. Cold and dispirited, I was turned back again.
 
On the way, I stopped at my first viewing site to study the sky. The luminous orb slipped out from underneath a bank of clouds! In the twilight hush, the moon dropped downward at a measured pace. Was the dark smudge on its upper left a remnant of the clouds? No, it was discernibly a shadow – Earth’s shadow – covering that bit of the moon, keeping the sun’s light from reaching it. 
 
Witnessing the glowing sphere move ever so steadily, I realized that I had taken hold of the orb: I was moving with this celestial body. The contact seemed to come from my heartbeat: steady, wholly sure, in touch with nature. I experienced, fleetingly, three dimensional seeing, a glimpse of the alignment of Moon, Earth – with myself apart of the Planet – and Sun moving in space.
 
My eyes followed the moon until its last ember was extinguished as it dropped between twigs on the forested skyline.

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