This was the greatest night for astronomy that made me feel empowered with delight. I got a few surprises from the night sky where I wasn’t expecting them to appear. This made the last lunar eclipse look tame. That was back in March 2007 when I saw the Moon turn blood red from my garden in Hornchurch around midnight. This one was a big one that wasn’t quite as colourful as the last.
I got out at 2 am to go into the garden being really careful not to wake my housemates as I stood in the garden. It was very cold but I was wrapped up warm and I never felt so excited about this astronomical event for years. Earlier this year I was out in Hornchurch at around 10 am to watch a solar eclipse from the green outside the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch. It was thick as pea soup I couldn’t see through the clouds. After that disappointing spectacle I was gutted but I wanted to see something spectacular. This time the weather was clear and I was in Norwich at my student home. The only drawback was that I had no telescope. This was not what I was banking on 8 years ago when I was at home but I had a great opportunity to catch two lunar eclipses in my lifetime. All I had was an advanced compact camera that I had for four years. This is the result of my observational data.
As you can see the Moon appeared in rather dusky halo rather than a blood red orb as it could have been. This is the result of the Moon appearing in a small part of the Earth’s shadow. When the Moon goes into an eclipse it is behind the Earth where the light from the Sun is bent in towards the red part of the spectrum. This creates a red hue in the Earth’s atmosphere that makes the Moon appear red. However when the Moon is only in a small part of the shadow or is within the umbral part of the shadow it appears as a scarred orb that resembles a shaded lens on a pair of sunglasses. It still looks fantastic though.
What’s even more fantastic is that bright clear sky above me. It was so clear I could see far more stars than I have ever seen in my life. I could see the summer triangle in the west with Cygnus the swan and Vega from Lyra. Just to the east where the autumnal astrosphere was coming I could make out the eye of Taurus the Bull looking at me. That was one angry bull wanting to charge at a red moon. Just as totality commenced a shooting star sped past the Moon right in front of me like a shot in the dark had been fired to my imagination. That was a grand view that I will never forget. It was from then on that I realised I made the right choice to study science in a great place right here, right now.
Well that’s that for now. By the time I see another eclipse I hope to be away from here, somewhere else in the world with a telescope, a camera and a better view that makes this look amateurish. You know it’s interesting to point out that in my life two lunar eclipses have coincided with two events in my life. First in March 2007 I had just released by first novel and tried to make it as a writer and it was also in that year that the eclipse inspired me to take a new leaf and study science and go back to an old ambition. I became a student of the Open University and for the next 7 years I was studying physics of the natural sciences and maths. And now here in September 2015 I am trying for another attempt at higher education at the University of East Anglia. What an extraordinary co-incidence. Maybe in the next lunar eclipse another chapter will open up in my life. I wonder what that could be?