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Total Lunar Eclipses - 2003

As luck would have it, the year 2003 brought TWO total lunar eclipses to Ohio. While the first was partly clouded out, I did get a chance to enjoy some of it...




May 15/16, 2003 - A Total Lunar Eclipse...

Comments: I figured there was no way. It has rained for the last fourteen out of fifteen days here in Ohio, and today was no exception. But I'm a die hard spirit...

And it's not hard to coax me into napping a rainy night away.

Somewhere around 10:30 or so, I noticed the thunder had ended. Or maybe I woke up because my large, black blanket named H finally got off me. What ever it was, at least I got up. Wandering outside on the deck, the cold rain was still coming down and I had half a mind just to go back to sleep. But like I said, I'm a die hard spirit... And perhaps a cold beer and just watching the eclipse virtually would be enough. Connecting to the internet, I browsed through a bunch of sources only to find most of the world clouded out as well. Settling on one in Belgium, I think, I started watching and opened my beer. Another friend from around the world was also on line and wouldn't you know? The brat in Georgia had gotten to see it!

Check it out... here!

Delighted to know that one of my friends had good fortune, I don't know what came over me... But all at once I knew I had to go look. Because you know...

When opportunity comes knockin'? You gotta' be there to answer the door.

One step outside was all it took. A few patters of cold rain hit me and a flash of lightning scattered across the east. Shaking my head in sorrow, I figured this was just another lost cause, and that perhaps astronomy for me was going to become a thing of the past. Again, I don't know why, but I stood there in that cold rain... Feet in a puddle... And eyes on the skies. And I noticed a dull, dark orange circle just behind the big pine.

Oh, my....

Hastily excusing myself, I slid into a pair of moccasins, threw a jacket on over my shorts and t-shirt, and snatched up the camera. We are out of here!!!

Well, maybe not.

Again, I don't always understand my instinctual reactions to things.... I only know that I have them. I couldn't move off the deck. Everything was wrong... Everything. I am never afraid of the dark... But I am now. And I don't know why! Scolding myself for being the world's largest sissy, and noticing that H ain't left the deck either, I set the example and headed out for the garage to turn on some tunes. All you need is rock and roll...

Even though that strange feeling persisted, I headed out for the south field with H glued to my side. He was so close I could feel his fur against my bare leg, and we both stood at attention in that barren, rainsoaked grass, watching the deepest colored copper imaginable orb race behind the clouds. With just mere seconds to go before it leaves totality... The rain, the dog and I were the only ones there to witness this incredibly beauty.

And then the light broke through...


"There's a red fox torn by the huntsman's pack... That's my soul up there."


If there was a solitary moment during the eclipse that I could have asked for? That was the one. That stunning moment when the Sun lights up Selene once again and makes her beautiful. And the funniest thing happened...

The rain stopped.

Holding my breath, I made a run back for the garage to fetch out the 4.5. How many eclipses, old friend, have we viewed together? And tonight I chose you. Out of all the scopes here, you are the only one who will walk with me through the wet grass... To dare the dew and sieze the moment. Let's rock...

And moments later? We were on it...


"There's a black winged gull with a broken back... That's my soul up there."


I have never felt so torn in my life! Before me in the eyepiece is this incredible beauty... Yet what I really want to do is just stand and look at this vision... It moves my soul.

Divinding my attention between eyepiece and sky, I watch as the lunar features seem to race into apppearance... Grimaldi, Aristarchus, Gassendi, Copernicus... Knowing in my heart that I should be timing this... And not really caring.

And still, the clouds move over it all. Huge open eyes of perfect clarity, the universe reflected in them... Calling to be explored. Yet the one place in the sky where mystery lay? Is now shrouded...

I shuffle about in the grass, feeling the wet soak int my moccasins. My hands are jammed down in my pockets and I will those clouds with all my might just to keep moving on!! Of course, my imagination for once is actually working... and I find myself wondering what it would be like to be upon the Moon... Watching our cloud encased Earth slide over the face of the Sun...

And then the Moon calls me back to Earth.


And the second? Oh, my... See for yourself!!



November 8, 2003 - A Total Lunar Eclipse...

Comments: I guess there comes a time in one's "astronomy life" when you have to reflect on how you feel about things. Whether or not what you do as a public personnae is appealing to you... Or whether you'd rather be alone. I had made the decision to be with my friends tonight at the observatory, and it would be the first time in my life I had ever witnessed a total eclipse in the company of a large group of people. I'm not sure how I'm going to react to the whole thing, but I know I'm excited... And that's what counts.

Arriving in plenty enough time, I had the little Orion with me, for I find lunar eclipse watching far more satisfying with the naked eye than with a telescope. Mind you, I stil like looking through the scope as the shadows race across the features, but the true beauty is looking up and seeing the movements of our own solar system brought to life before our eyes! And, of course, the movements of our own atmosphere as well, eh? For as the Moon started into the penumbral shadow of the Earth, it was partly eclipsed by the clouds as well...


But there was no despair on my part, or on any of those around me. We here in Ohio understand our skies, and it is not uncommon for clouds to follow either in the wake of, or proceeding the Sun. The temperatures are dropping rapidly and the clearing will come. The beginning penumbral shadow was incredibly deep... Deeper than most of us expected it to be. Is this just the contrast from the glare of the full Moon? Or will totality be the darkest we've seen in some time?

The minutes ahead will tell...

The skies began clearing immediately after that, and the collective crowd began to hold its' breath as we watched the shadow progress futher and further across the lunar surface. Dave is with me tonight, and we trade of views in the eyepiece, watching a bright point slowly being eaten by the terminator. We check our watches, both of us amazed that an hour before the predicted time that we have so much shadow coverage. Ordinarily the penumbral only makes a slight coloration difference... But this acts almost like the umbra! Again, we are sure it is just a trick of the eye... But it's a fine trick. The further and further that shadow progresses, the easier and easier it begins to be to see those "red tones" that lay just at the edge of perception.


By now the cold has become a force to be reckoned with. Any exposed skin has felt the bite, and it is difficult to breathe without causing a blue haze on the eyepiece or the camera. And it's so hard not to breathe! The excitement of the people around us is palpable... Including our own. Many voices talk at once, each describing what they see in either the eyepiece - or as they watch. All about me, cameras are snapping pictures, and children are chattering. I take a few minutes away to hand out some of the last of our JPL/NASA goodies to the many young faces in the crowd, as well as take them up on the lift to view the eclipsing Moon through the slit of the dome. I have no real urge to unleash the 31" on this scene, for I find it more satisfactory to behold with one's own eyes.

Slipping away to the outside, I go back and find that Dave has happily taken over keeping the little Orion on the eclipse. I can't tell you how much pleasure it gives me to stand away and watch him talk to this one and that as they view through the scope. Mon ami? This is what it is all about... I lay a hand on his arm and give him a smile as I reach for my camera. I can only hope the cold has not found the battery just yet! We laugh together and we watch the Moon through the camera's screen... It looks like a reverse "buckeye"!

A delightful piece of "eye candy"...


(and no, i haven't gone daft on you... some photos were taken through the scope, and you know what happens when you use a reflector. ;)

The time is drawing ever closer to the magic moment of 8:06... And it seems to slow down. Even the people around me are quieter. I slip away from Dave to look through Joe's "Skywind" and find myself spiriling toward the lunar surface. Joe laughs at me in the dark, because he knows what kind of impact stereo vision has on me. I take a moment to visit with Terry, both Mikes, Ted, Keith, Curt and Robert as well. Monty is here, manning Mike's videocamera, and Ron is happily taking pictures as well. There are many faces that I do not recognize in the dark... But they all are welcome. But it's coming down to that moment... That one moment I find the most special of the eclipse... And I head on back to my own scope.

Totality is near.


Tycho explodes into a golden cauldron, its' bright rays transformed into splash marks of molten lava. I hear myself calling out to alert the others to look... It is incredible. I am amazed at the stellar field, there are so many grazers around the orb of the Moon, I am surprised that there is not an occultation. Truly it doesn't get more beautiful than this!! I look down at my watch and realize we are in totality...

As the others chatter excitedly, I walk through the bushes and out into the fire ring. It's all here, Bossman... Just like a dream. Arching up over the dome is the glittering Milky Way... You can see the "Double Cluster" and the Andromeda Galaxy with ease. The eclipsed Moon stands so near the Plieades, they paint a portait on these skies you know. Everything feels so close... Like you could reach out and touch it. Yet it's so far away. This moment is for you. Do ya' hear Van Halen? "Got my drink in my hand... Got my toes in the sand..." And I reach up... Just like I could touch that firelit Moon...

And smile.


I see John inside the Dome touring the sky with our guests and I return as well. Ted has his 17" Odyessy out, and it is my pleasure to view both Encke and NEAT. All around, scopes are moving to a variety of deep sky objects for the pleasure of our guests... And I think I got lost somewhere in the sands of time, dude. It feels good to get a hot cup of coffee and just stand here next to Robert watching this vision. I am frozen. No doubt about it. Despite my many layers, the cold has found its' way in... And it's here to stay. Dave and I laugh and hop to a few simple targets, and it is a wonder we can even find the Moon the finder is so far off. No matter. Back to the Moon we go... For totality is quickly passing away and the silver smile of sunshine is lighting up the eastern edge once again...


People are beginning to drift away now. For them? The show is over. I don't blame them. It is very cold. Small children and the older ones do not tolerate it well. There are some who have come dressed warmly... And they linger on asking questions. Those of us who do not know when to quit are rewarded with bright meteors who's radiant speaks louder of Taurids than Leonids. Like the beginning phases, the slow reappearance of sunlight as the Moon egresses from eclipse is just as fascinating as ingress. There are many of us who hold our ground... Joe, Terry, Dave, Keith, Robert and Curt. For us? It ain't over til' the Fat Lady sings... And brothers?

She's getting fatter by the minute!


About that time, my camera decided enough was enough. The sustained hours of cold had drained its' battery to the point where it simply shut itself off. I can understand... Even I am feeling the cold. (what is it about the cold and gettin' old, dude? even ozzy is gonna' walk better than me tomorrow... ;) The little Orion has been broken in right, for there is frost on its' shiny black sides. I stay on and watch until the shadow is almost gone, enjoying the free fall through space once again in Joe's Skywind. One by one, we begin to break our equipment down and tuck it away into our respective vehicles. The dome has long ago been closed down for the night and the last of our visitors departed.

It has been a very unusual experience for me. I have missed the solitary peace of my own backyard, yet at the same time I have thoroughly enjoyed the company of my friends. The event turned out very well... Very well, indeed. Our turnout was wonderful, we had more cooperation than I've seen in a very long time, and the people truly seemed to have enjoyed themselves. The only thing that was really missing was rock and roll!

And you...


Here's to the years to come! Cheers!!

"I see a bad Moon a'risin... I see trouble on the way..."

~TheAstronomer