Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A light show seen for miles and miles and miles

"You cannot look up at the night sky on the Planet Earth and not wonder what it's like to be up there among the stars," the actor Tom Hanks once said. "And I always look up at the moon and see it as the single most romantic place within the cosmos."

Light show fantastic / Sunday night's total lunar eclipse.

Imagine, the rare phenomenon that was Sunday night's sight of a total lunar eclipse of a harvest moon, hanging in the sky painted a coppery red. It coincided with a "super-moon," which happens when a full moon makes its closest approach to planet Earth. The result is the moon appears bigger and brighter than usual.

Added together, the night sky's theatrics provided everyone with a celestial show for the ages.

I'll admit, I was among the admirers who stood in awe in the middle of our residential cul-de-sac, along with my wife and a neighboring family of four, together, watching what unfolded in the nighttime sky at its peak between 8 and 9 o'clock Pacific Daylight Time.

Words like "amazing" and "miracle" were among the many gushing adjectives that came up during conversation of our shared experience.

Earlier in the day, I was skeptical that our view would be tarnished because of low-hanging clouds over the San Francisco Bay Area. However, as the afternoon faded to evening, a nice window of opportunity for viewing the total lunar eclipse occurred when the cloud cover above us cleared -- as if on command. So, without worry, it was on with the show.

Meanwhile, as I checked my Facebook news feed throughout the day, I realized the enormity of the event -- and its interest wasn't confined just to a U.S. audience. A dear friend and astronomy enthusiast of mine, Mayssa Yazidi, who resides eight time zones away from me in the North Africa country of Tunisia, eagerly awaited in the wee hours of early Monday morning for her chance to see the total lunar eclipse. In the hours leading up for both of us to see the big event, we exchanged several messages that were filed with hope and optimism. And, we followed up enthusiastically after daylight broke for both of us Monday, recalling what each of us saw from our respective sides of the world.

Sunday night's total lunar eclipse as seen from my patio deck. /
The umbra was beginning to leave the moon at 8:54 p.m. PDT.

When the harvest moon finally appeared high over the horizon of the Oakland hills, shortly after 8 o'clock Sunday night, I could see the total eclipse was already in full effect. While it proved challenging to photograph the total eclipse, both with my DSLR camera as well as my iPhone 6, the memory of it all lives on in my mind.

Sometimes, that's all that matters.

Photos: © Michael Dickens, 2015.

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