Well yesterday was a big day for astronomical phenomena, the first time since 2009 that we had a winter solstice and the first time in a long time that we had a lunar eclipse on the day of the solstice. Depending on who you want to believe the last time there was a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice was 1638 (US Naval Observatory), or 1544 (Starhawk, The Wiccan). Other than being an interesting fact in the newspaper, I am not sure what the relative importance of a lunar eclipse falling on the same day as the winter solstice holds. As far as I know it is the only time it has ever happened on December 22, 2010 so is that not some notable factoid of relative rarity as well?
The timing of this event presented a problem for me. It started around 1:30 AM and reached full coverage at 3:17 AM. OK, I am on vacation so I could stay up and watch it. But why? I have seen these things before several times. Of course never on the winter solstice. Well none the less I was hoping for cloud cover and then I could sleep with no guilt of missing one of nature's rarer displays. I went out about 11:15 PM. Crap! The moon was visible, only some high cirrus clouds in the way. Not sure which way to go, I read for a while and got really tired. It was about 12:30. Great! Some lake effect clouds moved in and the moon was totally obscured! I went to bed guilt free bargaining with myself that if I woke up, I would look at it then.
Two AM, I woke up! Of course I would wake up. The bedroom window at the head of bed is oriented to the world that allows seeing the full moon in the winter. I look out, crap, I could see the moon partially obscured by the shadow. So I got up, put on my clothes and went outside. More lake effect cloud cover. Totally gone! So I stood outside freezing my ass off for 15 minutes. The moon barely peeked through the clouds once for a few seconds. It was still very murky and I decided to go back to bed. In bed but now well awake from the cold in my bones, I thought well I will take a look every now and again from the bed. About 10 to 3, I look out and Wow! I can really see it, I can even see the red on it this time. I put on my clothes and go back outside, as I look up at the moon I can see another batch of lake effect clouds heading for the moon. About 30 seconds later the moon was gone again. So I gave it another 5 minutes of ass freezing vigil with minor murky peaks and then decided to hell with it. I went back to bed and about every 5 minutes pulled open the drape and had a peek. I never saw it totally obscured, there was always a sliver of light when I did see it, but for the most part I saw nothing but clouds. I would almost drift off to sleep and then guilt myself into looking again. Four thirty was the last time I remember looking at the clock.
Well it was rather disappointing, but still better than any of my life long attempts to see the Perseid meteor showers, and for the most part, I watched it while laying in bed!
To be honest though, I would have preferred to have just slept through it.
You can see some neat photos of the eclipse here:
Washington Post, Photo Gallery
Here is Starhawk's commentary in the Washington Post:
Washington Post, On Faith, Out of darkness, light: Solstice and the lunar eclipse
Image: The lunar eclipse taken from Orlando Florida. This is what I was supposed to see.
Wikipedia, 12-21-2010 Lunar Eclipse Orland FL.
Oh one other notable event--well of minor notability, Undercover Christmas was on TV again last night so I sat through it with a note book in hand and got the forgiveness quote more or less accurately this time. Tyne Daly's character Ann speaking to her son the FBI agent regarding the relationship between he and his father:
“I don’t think that forgiveness is earned. It is given. The only way this will ever end is when one of you decides to forgive the other out of generosity. When you want that more than to be right.”
Navigating The Finite, Forgiveness...Earned or Given?