It was freezing cold outside. And dark. Not the kind of dark that just comes with night but the dark that happens when the earth passes between the sun and the moon.
It was February 20, 2008, and I was in our new temporary home in Gaston, Oregon, an hour west of Portland, in time for the total eclipse of the moon. Brent and I stood in the cold for hours to photograph and watch this rare event.
NASA explained that the difference between this eclipse and other annual eclipses is that this one was first visible to the majority of people on the planet, covering the Americans, Europe, Africa, and western Asia. The full eclipse happens only when there is a full moon and only if the moon passes through some portion of Earth’s shadow, when the earth, sun, and moon are in total alignment.
We are used to seeing solar eclipses, where the moon blocks the sun for a few minutes. A lunar eclipse lasts for hours as the earth blocks the light hitting the moon. No special glasses are required for a lunar eclipse, unlike a solar eclipse. The previous total or full lunar eclipse was three years before. The next one is April 15, 2014.
There are two shadows that the earth cats on the moon, an inner an outer shadow. It is the inner shadow, the umbra, that happens when earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the moon, making it totally dark. If the moon passes through the umbra, it is a partial eclipse. If the moon passes through both the umbral (outer shadow), then a total eclipse occurs. We were in for a total eclipse.
As the moon passes through the various stages of the eclipse, it turns from red to dark brown and dark gray. That is what we experienced.
For us, it was a rare enough event as clouds didn’t interfere with the show. Continue reading