White Fake (a kind of White Lie)

The plan was, I would get up at 2:45 (British time) and judge the sky: would it be clear enough for us to go out and see Moment Two? Moment Two was the minutes before total eclipse. If so, wake Tilly.

Well, I woke at 2:15, the sort of time I rather often do. Confiscated her alarm clock so it wouldn’t bother her. Saw immediately from the windows that the crystalline Full Moon, a quarter bitten away, hung in a pure sky over the ancient street and the single line of buildings between us and the sea. I went across and through the gateway into the sloping gardens that overlook the harbour. The Moon had westered too far to be still pouring its reflection on the water; it was high over the lights strung along the famous jetty called the Cobb. I’m not a photographer; all I have is an iPad, and I found it couldn’t separate the Moon’s sharp shape from its glare.

(For some reason the photo won’t arrive, which is no great loss.  Blackness, lights along the harbour below, smudged Moon above.)

As Moment Two approached, I hurried back to rouse Tilly, and here she is gazing from our doorway. She saw (sometimes with our monocular) the last slice of uneclipsed white, then the gray-brown undercurve of the eclipsed Moon’s southern edge; above it, the Moon’s interior, visible though increasingly darker, reddish. No photo we could take could show anything of that, so I’ve faked it. I’ve drawn onto this picture the faraway thing we saw.

lunar eclipse 2015 September 28

4 thoughts on “White Fake (a kind of White Lie)”

  1. It wasn’t just me out and about then, after all! Skies were clear and crisp in NE England, with our first frost of this winter underfoot, though a thin film of high clouds drifted across by 04:45 a.m. local time (BST), which was less than helpful, and some mist drifting through on and off all night as well.

    Eclipse of two halves for me. The opening partial stage, and the first part of totality, were both fairly colourful, and reasonably bright, but as mid-eclipse approached, the Moon’s colour became much more muted, and the whole seemed a lot darker, to the point where I was struggling to see parts of the lunar disc even using a 7×50 binocular. I’d guess at Danjon 1.5 for the first half of totality, but perhaps 1.1 or 1.0 from mid-eclipse onwards.

    After totality ended, what little colouring remained on the Moon seemed to drain away completely, leaving a hint of very dull coppery red-brown only. I did wonder if it was due to the Moon being much lower in the sky by then, possibly coupled with the encroaching thin clouds. I persisted though, until the last traces of penumbral shadow I could see were gone, shortly before 06h local.

    And in the final hour, I was also slipping round the other side of the house to watch Venus, Mars, Regulus and (finally!) Jupiter coming up in the east, to the sounds of the early autumn dawn chorus. Grand night overall!

    1. A fine description from Alastair, who spent much more time out there than we did though quite a few degrees of latitude colder. His “slipping around the other side of the house” toward dawn to see the planets rising in the east makes the dome of the night spring to solid life.

    2. Beautiful description, Alastair. Thank you so much. You almost made me feel like I was there.

  2. Lucky you! I was clouded out in the Bronx but wasn’t going to any major efforts to travel to clearer skies. But thanks or your report. I look forward to 8-21-17.

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