Jane B (knally) wrote,
Jane B

Lunar eclipse - 3rd March

Last night my brother and I watched the lunar eclipse, which I was very pleased about since I was one of those thwarted by clouds the last time it happened on the 4th May 2004.

We kept popping into the back bedroom every 10 minutes to check how it was progressing since my window gave a clear view of the moon at that point. Then, at about half ten we armed ourselves with coats, scarves and binoculars and went outside to the allotments which are only about 5 minutes walk away. Although these have houses on either side, so there is some light pollution, they gradually slope down to a river and playing fields on the other side of the river, so we were able to get an excellent view of the sky.

The actual progress of the earth across the moon was very distinct, and with the naked eye did seem to be eating away at the moon. With the binoculars it was still possible to see the full circle of the moon, and with more detail than usual. Around 22:44 the moon was fully covered, but there was still a glimmer of whiteness from the reflection of sunlight on the top section, which became less and less apparent as time passed. By the time we left at about ten past eleven (which wasn't the mid-eclipse point of 23:21) there was only the faintest suggestion of light at the top.

The moon did turn red, a subtle terracotta shade, which was more obvious through binoculars. It seemed to hang lower in the sky, and became more convex, more like a planet than the usual flat disc that we usually see. With its light dimmed you could use binoculars to pick out stars near the moon which aren't usually visible, although I can't tell you what they were. We also looked at other points in the sky while we were waiting for totality, and thought we might have spotted the International Space Station since there was a strange multi-coloured object low down in the south-west. But we checked out Heavens-Above when we got back and it definitely wasn't the ISS and didn't appear to be any other satellite. With the binoculars it was also possible to pick out the shapes of aeroplanes as they passed by high overhead, when usually all you can see are the flashing lights.

It was wonderful to observe this phenomenon so clearly, and it reminded me of when I was young and used to have pictures of alien landscapes adorning my bedroom walls. But you don't have to travel to other worlds to see the strange and beautiful.

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