And everything under the sun is in tune

And the sun casts light on an eclipsed moon.

Had today been my daybreak shift at work, I’d-a been up to see this:

full lunar eclipse December 2011

Confusion about lunar and solar eclipses persists so to {ahem} illuminate the differences:

* a lunar eclipse is when the Earth passes between the sun and moon, casting its shadow upon the moon.

* a solar eclipse is when the moon passes between sun and Earth, blocking our view of the sun.

The best seats in the house stretched across the western Pacific through Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, central and southeast Asia.

“Supersized” and “blood-red” is how they’re describing it.

It’s All in the Mind

The moon fat and ginormous on the horizon is of course no wider than it is distant miles away. It’s an optical trick popularly known as the moon illusion or, technically, the Ponzo illusion, aptly named after the fellow, first name Mario, who observed it in 1913.

There’s a nifty gadget illustrating distance and depth and the cool mind-bending effect on our perceptions.

Then there’s this, the simplest geometric formula illustrating why two lines of equal length appear dissimilar:

Ponzo Illusion

Consequently, viewers of the eclipsed moon on the horizon will seem to be swimming in lunar light. Pret-ty cool.

I’d be remiss to fail to mention the moon’s astronomical/astrological placement: 18 degrees in the constellation of Gemini.

Seeing Red

And why the red in shades of copper to bright blood? Ah, it’s all about dust, air and light

NASA Science sums it up simply:

“It might seem puzzling that the Moon turns red when it enters the shadow of the Earth—aren’t shadows supposed to be dark? In this case, the delicate layer of dusty air surrounding our planet reddens and redirects the light of the sun, filling the dark behind Earth with a sunset-red glow.

The exact hue (anything from bright orange to blood red is possible) depends on the unpredictable state of the atmosphere at the time of the eclipse. As Jack Horkheimer (1938-2010) of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium loved to say, “Only the shadow knows.”

Atmospheric scientist Richard Keen of the University of Colorado might know, too. For years he has studied lunar eclipses as a means of monitoring conditions in Earth’s upper atmosphere, and he has become skilled at forecasting these events.

“I expect this eclipse to be bright orange, or even copper-colored, with a possible hint of turquoise at the edge,” he predicts.

Earth’s stratosphere is the key: “During a lunar eclipse, most of the light illuminating the moon passes through the stratosphere where it is reddened by scattering,” he explains.

“If the stratosphere is loaded with dust from volcanic eruptions, the eclipse will be dark; a clear stratosphere, on the other hand, produces a brighter eclipse. At the moment, the stratosphere is mostly clear with little input from recent volcanoes.”

Pret-ty neat!

And, simply, pretty.

If you missed this total lunar eclipse, the year’s second and final, well, you’ve got a wait. The next is on April 15, 2014, so mark your calendars in — appropriately — red.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. katie
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 12:34:46

    I saw it this morning. Very impressive. I didn’t sleep real well(long story!) but maybe something was telling me to wake up so I could see it! I woke up and the eclipse was just starting.I dozed off for a few minutes and when I woke up the moon was almost completely eclipsed.


  2. allycatadventures
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 12:54:41

    @katie – What fortune returned by misfortunate insomnia! Have you any photos to post {hint hint}? 🙂


  3. katie
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 18:25:01

    I had a tetanus shot and a flu shot(one in each arm) and have been slightly uncomfortable,thus the insomnia.

    No, no pictures, unfortunately.


  4. longeyesamurai
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 19:59:30

    Too bad it’s couldn’t be seen from my home…


  5. lexiemom
    Dec 11, 2011 @ 21:43:18

    The boys & I saw it. “Look, Mommy, the moon is orange!” It was a beautiful thing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: