Lunar eclipse from Mauna Kea and a hui hou for me
27 August 2007
Well, I’m preparing for my last night of work at the VIS. Apologies for the dearth of posts recently, but the last week before moving will do that to you. Or at least it does to me.
I picked tonight as my last night of work partly because I’m flying out to Oregon on Friday and wanted a few days to put things in order, and partly because it seems pretty cool to wrap things up smack in the middle of the prime viewing spot for a total lunar eclipse.
I packed (comparatively) clean Carhartts and some creature comforts, and will be starting work tonight (27 August) at 6p and going through until about 4a tomorrow (28 August). The slow lunar eclipse will begin at about 11p here, and the darkest bit comes at about 12.30a. Not the zippiness of solar eclipses, but neat nonetheless.
Elle’s description of her firsthand experience with slipperiness of memory when she witnessed a minor car accident last week put me in mind of the difficulty of being a reliable observer. Despite a lot of counterinsurgency, many people tonight will look outside and see–as far as they know–Mars, hugely looming in the sky.
Given the general rate of change with scientific knowledge, and the number of wholly remarkable things that happen regularly that people don’t hear about until they happen (meteor showers, eclipses, undersea mass sponge migrations), I hardly think we can revile those people for thinking that a strangely-colored Moon is really something else.
The even more subtle points, then, are that eclipses both lunar and solar happen fairly frequently and periodically, but the Earth’s shadow is not responsible for the phases of the Moon generally. And that Mars doesn’t rise until about midnight from Mauna Kea, and is dim and small enough to be difficult to distinguish from, say, Betelgeuse.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to the eclipse, and I’ll post some pictures as soon as I can. In the meantime, reflect on the difficulty of finding three good witnesses to anything.