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February 21, 2008

Lunar Eclipse 2008

Filed under: Naked eye observing,Observing — nick @ 4:53 am

20 February 2008: Lunar Eclipse

A total lunar eclipse was forecast for tonight. Earlier this day, I had poor hopes for good visibility; it was snowing when I woke up (the kids; school district called for a two hour delay, which just messes up everyone’s schedule) and the sky was completely overcast all morning.

Around 9:00 pm I had just finished a soccer game (I play on a “40 [years old] and over” indoor soccer league—yes, we won, thanks for asking) and as I exited the building the moon clearly visible with a noticeable “bite” out of it. By the time I got home I could see the sky was clear and the moon was in Leo, nestled between Regulus and Saturn. The air was crisp but cold—around 15°F (about -10°C), so I put on some extra layers of clothing.

The eclipse was approaching totality, so I asked the girls if they wanted to come out for a look, and they did. We decided it was too cold to get out a telescope but we did grab a pair of binoculars. We watched the bright limb disappear from one side of the moon and looked at the copper-shadowed moon with the binoculars for awhile. It’s funny how dark the eclipsed portion appears when part is still sunlit, but when totality occurs it seems brighter.

Since it was cold, the girls went in shortly after 10:00 (it was past their bedtime, anyway) and I went inside as well, popping out every ten minutes or so to take a look until the sunlit portion began to emerge from the Earth’s shadow.

Eclipse trivia: Aristotle used the roundness of the Earth’s shadow on the moon during a lunar eclipse as an argument in favor of a spherical Earth.

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