Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Total Eclipse

Climactic vagaries and inattention have generally combined to hide the Lunar Eclipses from me. This time they failed to hand off duties in any theoretical or coincidental alliance. I pitched the viewing idea to the PrissKids; our own driveway, or perhaps a park? Staying up all night appealed, but the celestial event garnered no underage excitement. What about if I brought coffee? No. Snacks? Maybe. My daughter asked if she could invite a friend or two. I said OK, and decided to try the Junior High football field. While surrounded by trees, it is large enough that we might be able to find a spot central enough to see well. One of its parking lots is un-gated.

Inviting others threatened to get out of hand when friend number two said she would be asking a bunch of people to join us. I told my daughter that if more than a few kids were coming I wasn't comfortable being the only parent present. We packed blankets and pillows, and tucked a box of pretzels into the backpack. One of her pals showed up, and the girls baked lemon cupcakes to take along.

We set out just before just 1:00 AM, to pick up the other bud on our way. But there are always complications. Zbig weaseled out of coming with us, because the Maddy posse is too hyper for him. And as we rounded the first corner, my daughter casually mentioned that we were also picking up the friend`s twin brother.

Harrumph. If her scheme had not been concealed, I could have leveraged the the presence of an awkward non-blabby guy to get Zbig to accompany us. Or barring that, have have made it into a girls-only evening. So there I was with my kid and her emo-Goth-Wiccan-Protestant pals, one of whom disappeared with the Y-Chromosome twin for more than two hours. (Both sets of parents have been appraised of this potential unseemliness.)

The moon show was profound. It didn't need the embellishment of those auto-hypnotic rituals used to impart intensity into programmed celebrations. The full disk of the moon was painfully bright to look at. Unfiltered binoculars were overkill. The first twenty minutes were: Is anything happening? Which side? Yes, they are dancing in the moonlight. That is what girls do. A constellation that may have been Cetus was brilliant overhead.

A shadow arrived, beginning in the upper left quadrant. Time for pretzels and mooncake! We had the field completely to ourselves, and the kidlets launched into a series of Eagles and Beatles vocalizations. Were these people 14, or 54? That was when one of them, feeling ignored, sulked away to write in her diary by flashlight. She gradually increased her distance from us. Our non-female moon-viewer vanished as well.

The moon`s disk went through half, and was down to crescent when the dark area became visible in gray, turning toward lavender. As the shadow approached full coverage, swirls of orange showed, and then it darkened to a mottled reddish brown. More stars could be seen now. The familiar Dippers popped out overhead and Orion had risen.

Air temperature had dropped. I poured coffee into my 1950s turquoise plastic cups. The remaining occupants on my blanket demonstrated that they were not of the Javanese faith: Mmm, smells good. It`s so warm! This needs sugar, way more sugar! I cant drink this. The child conversation morphed into a discussion of llamas, Eventually substituting the cameloid term for most nouns and many verbs.

The full Eclipse phase seemed to last forever, the brown going back to purplish and remaining that way for nearly an hour. The moon arced across the sky and dipped into tree territory. I walked to the track and climbed into the 30-seat mini-bleachers. Then, as the shadow lessened, the moon took on a three-dimensional quality. The gradation between shadowed edges and glowing center made it feel like the true globe that it is. Our wandering couple reappeared and I asked them not to leave again.

A stark white patch showed before 5:00 AM, and grew quickly. My eyes had adjusted to darkness, so at first it seemed brighter than it had earlier. At 5:22 I was was ready to leave. (The official beginning and ending times were from 00:52 to 06:22 August 28, 2007.)

Blankets and pillows were repacked and we pulled out of the concealed parking lot.
I parked the Geminis with their parents and headed home. Looking west as we drove, the full moon was still high. It was bright enough to compete with traffic lights and shop windows.

Explain symbols in the map.
Map of sky above 21°18'21"N 157°51'36"W at Tue 2007 Aug 28 11:00 UTC