Over the Hill

This super moon watcher almost went back to bed without seeing the eclipse

See the beautiful, massive super blue blood moon set over Shell Beach

California got a special show early Wednesday, January 31, 2018 — an excellent view of the super blue blood moon and lunar eclipse, which hasn't happened since 1866. Here's a look at the moon setting over Shell Beach in SLO County, California.
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California got a special show early Wednesday, January 31, 2018 — an excellent view of the super blue blood moon and lunar eclipse, which hasn't happened since 1866. Here's a look at the moon setting over Shell Beach in SLO County, California.

I hope you saw the lunar eclipse last Wednesday morning. I’m not an early riser, but somehow I managed to get out of bed and out-of-doors by 6:05 a.m. to see the eclipse.

But first I disabled my backyard motion light to prevent it from coming on and hampering my night vision. Also, I didn’t want any early-rising neighbor to see me walking around my backyard wearing just pajamas and flip-flops.

I walked to the east side of my backyard and looked where I usually see the moon, but I saw none, eclipsed or not. I figured I was too late to see it.

Disappointed, I turned to go back into the house, and then I saw the eclipsed moon. It was plainly visible hanging low in the sky over my west-side fence. I must have been still half asleep.

I would describe the moon’s color as a rusty, rosy yellow, which darkened toward its northern side. It reminded me of a hot, glowing, charcoal briquette. The moon did have the slightest hint of a white crescent on its southern side.

Maybe I was a little late. But I was still pleased to see any part of the lunar eclipse. The moon was also farther north than I remember ever seeing it.

As you know, lunar eclipses happen when the Earth gets between the sun and the moon. The Earth’s shadow then falls on the moon.

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The super blue blood moon glows red in the sky over Pismo Beach on Jan. 31, 2018. July's blood moon will be the longest total lunar eclipse of the century. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Wednesday’s lunar eclipse had three nicknames.

One was “super moon,” because it was closer to Earth than usual and so looked bigger and brighter than usual.

Another nickname was “blue moon” for being the second full moon in one month. (I don’t know how that makes it blue.) And it was also called a “blood moon,” because a little sunlight did reach the moon and gave it a sunset color. The next such lunar triple play isn’t expected to happen for another century and a half.

But 150 years is almost nothing in the life of our moon, which may actually be 4.1 billion years old.

Experts say the moon was probably formed when a planet-sized heavenly body smashed into our Earth. Debris from that cataclysmic crash probably clumped itself together and formed the moon. It and the Earth have shared gravity and space ever since.

But we humans are really latecomers. Wikipedia says that we branched off from the ape family about 315,000 years ago.

We seem to have evolved into the Earth’s most dangerous creatures.

We kill thousands of fellow humans in our continual wars. Our nations threaten each other with nuclear weapons. Our pollution poisons the Earth’s air, water and soil.

But the groundhog (woodchuck) named Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. I’d welcome that.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every other week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net

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