21 December 2010

Lunar Eclipse

Tonight, all across the country, thousands if not millions of people are staying up late to watch the only total lunar eclipse of this year.  There's clear viewing across most of the country and this eclipse will have a totality of around 70 minutes, which makes for great viewing.  As I write this, the Earth's shadow is already creeping across the Moon's surface.

Historically, lunar eclipses are thought to be harbingers of evil and misfortune.  A quick survey of lunar eclipse and cultural significance reveals numerous cultures that told stories of Luna being swallowed by a dragon, a snake, a puma, or some other animal.  But tonight, all that is changing in a way that only 21st technology can bring about.

Tonight, people are not watching in solitude or isolated bunches.  As I'm writing this, I have dozens of friends whose Facebook statuses reflect their interest in this phenomenon.  They're staying up late and we're all watching the eclipse together, in a way that only 21st century technology makes possible.  Even those with no clear view of their own can watch via NASA's live feed on the web.

Tonight, I'd give a lot to have a decent telescope or pair of binoculars.  Rest assured, my digital camera is taking great pictures (to be shared tomorrow) but nothing beats a telescope for astronomical observation.

Pictures coming soon.  Happy viewing, everyone!  And Happy Winter Solstice!

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