Monday, December 20, 2010

Solstice Silence

A lunar eclipse is set to happen on the solstice, I hear; from about 12:30 to 4 a.m. Central tomorrow. NASA says: "If you're planning to dash out for only one quick look --­ it is December, after all -- choose this moment: 03:17 am EST [2:17 for me]. That's when the Moon will be in deepest shadow, displaying the most fantastic shades of coppery red." (I'm glad the agency capitalizes Moon.)

Trouble is, it's snowing heavily where I am, and isn't expected to clear up anytime soon. Rising from bed in the wee hours in December is a hard sell in any case, but a no-show coppery red Moon puts the kibosh on the whole deal. I will sleep through this common yet rarely timed event.

"A lunar eclipse smack-dab on the date of the solstice... is unusual," continues NASA. "Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years. 'Since Year 1, I can only find one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is 1638 DEC 21,' says Chester. 'Fortunately we won't have to wait 372 years for the next one... that will be on 2094 DEC 21.' " (And how did he say "DEC" in all caps like that? December 21! he screamed.)

So it goes. The Moon was lovely yesterday, lording over a clear sky that also sported the winter hunter Orion. A few hours ago, I went out on the snow and listened. During a heavy snow -- not after, when the roads are being plowed, but right in the thick of it -- is the quietest time these suburbs of millions. There's still a faint bit of road noise, but not much, and muffled airplanes course by sometimes. That's about all. It was so quiet this evening out in my back yard that I could hear the snowflakes hitting my coat. It was like the sound of wax paper being slowly crumbled in another room.

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