Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gotta Put That on My 2094 Calendar

I had no intention of setting the alarm to get up to see the total lunar eclipse at 3:17 this morning, and I didn’t. But my brain apparently sensed a darkening of the bedroom as the eclipse progressed, and I awakened about 2:25 and popped out of bed to watch.

The eclipse was progressing nicely, over half way. I wanted to take some photos, so I retrieved my camera from my desk. But how do I take a photo in the middle of the night of the moon that is nearly in full shadow of Earth’s shadow?

In the old days, I would have gotten out my “night photos” slide rule and done some calculating, put my Nikon on a tripod, and taken lots of photos at assorted camera settings, hoping for a few good ones. Then I would rush the film to a processor and await the prints to see if my informed guesstimates were good.

But this morning, I just let my Canon PowerShot SX 210 IS digital camera make all the decisions because it’s much smarter than I when it comes to picture taking—and who knows what else. So I just set it on AUTO, went out on the deck, learned up against the brick wall of our house, and fired away. The posted photo shows the moon at 2:40, about 36 minutes before the total eclipse.

The Washington Post this morning added another thought to my experience. The December 21, 2010, total lunar eclipse occurred on the same day as the winter solstice, our shortest day, for the first time since 1638. The next double occurrence will be in 2094. Maybe I’ll make that if I faithfully take my daily “Adult 50+ Mature Multi Vitamins and Minerals” tablet. I’ll be 154 then.

The winter solstice officially occurred at 6:38 a.m. No, I didn’t sleep through that and experienced nothing except the usual dizziness I get when Earth tilts at such a steep angle from the Sun. (Please note that the dizziness idea is attempted humor.)

About 2:55 this morning the 26° temperature and the slight breeze reminded me that my cotton pajamas weren’t outside wear, I might be embarrassing the deer, and a warm electric blanket beckoned. I slept through the total eclipse at 3:17.

Now I’ve got to mark December 21, 2094, on my schedule so I’ll remember the next double occurrence of a lunar eclipse and the winter solstice. I wonder if my Outlook calendar records entries that far into the future.

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