Thursday, February 21, 2008


Viewing conditions were perfect for last night's full lunar eclipse, and the moon hung unobscured above the trees. I set up our Meade mini-telescope, which was about the right power for the viewing. I was watching the Coen Brothers' movie, "Miller's Crossing," on DVD but stopped it intermittently to step out into the driveway and check the eclipse. When it was fully shadowed, though still dimly visible from refracted light, it looked more like an actual three-dimensional ball than it normally does, burnt orange in color. The proximity of Saturn and a couple bright stars added to the strange effect.

The last eclipse I remember clearly was an eclipse of the sun shortly after we moved to Columbia. Janne and I took the girls with us to Greenville, where the view was supposed to be better. A list of eclipse dates tells me there was a solar eclipse visible in the Eastern U.S. on May 30, 1984. That must have been it. Here's a poem I wrote, roughly based on that memory:

Remember how we drove six hours
to see the moon's shadow
forge across the sun and leave
a black hole in our daily light?
Our earthbound bodies
were in transit as we rigged
our telescope and camera
to record the crossing over.

Nothing lasts: our career
among the stars made us reel
with the earth and spin
from the moon's umbra quick
as we felt cool midday twilight,
that hint of how the sun
may go. No way to make
the moon or sun stand still.

We knew the danger
in such darkening:
the corona round the moon's
black disk could seem
a harmless wreath of fire,
while one short glimpse
would ruin eyes
as blue as yours.
One woman's blog: 200 books in a year

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