Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On Not Seeing the Lunar Eclipse

Like many others, astronomy buffs or ordinary folks, I looked forward eagerly to seeing Sunday's lunar eclipse. We can't see the eastern horizon from our property because it's surrounded by redwood trees (and then hills -- can't really call 'em mountains, although they feel like it). We can see directly overhead just fine, and there's relatively little light pollution compared to our nearest city, Santa Cruz. So after some research, we decided the best viewing location would be East Field at UCSC. Elevated, and with a spectacular view of Monterey Bay and eastward.

Alas, the atmosphere failed to cooperate. Even before we began the trek to USCS, clouds thickened across the east. The west, however, was not yet occluded. Lots of clear sky showed between the clouds. Armed with blanket and binoculars, we scaled the heights. On the field, we found groups of students and others, some with cameras set up on tripods.

The entire eastern horizon was, as they say, "socked in."We could just make out the lights on the Moss Landing power plant, which is further to the south. The gathering waited, hoping that the layers of eastern clouds would part -- or thin out -- just enough to catch a glimpse of the Moon. Was that reddish tinge the Moon or the riot of color to the west?

I was struck by how easy it was to get caught up in the gloom and disappointed hopes in one direction and miss the spectacular sunset in the other.

I didn't get to see the eclipse, although I can easily watch it on video online. I did, however, get to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen, sitting on a hilltop with my husband and my older daughter, who has just moved in with us so that she can go back to college. All in all, I'd pick the evening I got instead of the one I planned.

(My daughter took the photo.)

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