Monday, October 27, 2014

10 Years Later: October 27, 2004 Total Lunar Eclipse

It was 10 years ago today that I witnessed my first total lunar eclipse and this is, so far, the only one I've managed to witness from start to finish without any obscuring clouds blocking the show for part of the time. Needless to say, this was quite an introduction.

It's weird how one can remember the most minute details of a memorable day (or night).

On October 27, 2004, I was in my senior year of high school and the night also coincided with a college planning event at my local community college. My parents and I went to this event (this was big for them, too) but there was more than my college education on my mind as I knew from my astronomy class in high school that there was going to be a total lunar eclipse that night that would result in the Moon turning a blood-red color.

Unfortunately, there was a problem: clouds.

In my astronomy class, I was directed toward this extremely cool website called the Clear Sky Clock, which has cloud (among other sky-related) forecasts for hundreds of locations across North America. For the night of October 27, 2004, things were looking decidedly iffy, as evidenced by the sky when stepping out of the college planning event, which consisted of a patchwork of clouds and clear sky.

Anyway, my parents took me to the Neilsen, the observatory operated by the Black River Astronomical Society (which I joined a few months after the eclipse) so I could get my extra credit in astronomy class.

Then, almost if on cue, the clouds broke for good just as the show began.

The best part about this whole night is that I have a tangible reminder: a series of pictures. In high school, I was also in the journalism/yearbook class, which allowed me access to these high-tech things called digital cameras. For October 27, I signed out a circa 2000 Sony Mavica, which used 3.5”' floppy discs (good for 6 pics each) for storage for some photo shoot (probably tennis). Needless to say, there was more on my mind than the yearbook photo shoot as I signed out the camera on the day that also coincided with the eclipse.

Taking a 'let's see what happens' attitude toward the eclipse, I brought the camera with me to the Neilsen with the intention of trying to shoot the eclipse.

Result: a series of pics I've yet to duplicate.

Just as the eclipse began, the clouds started to part for good, revealing the Moon in unobscured detail. At first, the lower left corner of the Moon began to disappear. In time, the shadow proceeded to 'eat' the rest of the Moon. Eventually, thanks to light scattering, the Moon turned blood red as totality had arrived.

Just about at midnight, totality ended and the Moon began to turn back to its normal color. At about this time, my parents (to whom I owe an enormous debt of gratitude for not only allowing, but encouraging my hobby) arrived to take me back home. After we got back, they let me stay up to watch the remaining partial phases of the eclipse, which featured the obscured Moon going back to normal for about the next hour or so.

End result: I didn't go to bed until past 2am on a school night but I got to see a total lunar eclipse from start to finish (and captured it on camera), which made being tired the next day at school well worth it.

Now, 10 years later, this still remains a feat I have yet to duplicate (darn clouds)!

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